How, when and why smartphones will replace pagers

By Brian Dolan
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Last week we wrote about the growing popularity of smartphones among doctors and their growing use at hospitals. We wondered what it would take for smartphones to displace legacy pagers.

After posting our article with the question: "What's it going to take for smartphones to replace pagers in hospitals?" we received a number of comments. We reprinted a few of them below with the authors' permission:

What's it going to take for smartphones to replace pagers in hospitals?

"Extinction of Homo Sapiens-Pager. They will go the way of the Neanderthal and be killed off by Homo Sapiens-Smartphone." -Mark Moffitt MBA, BSEE

"Regarding pagers and smartphones: To replace pagers the mobile network would need to improve markedly. [It would need to improve] mostly in-building, but that is where the majority of house staff pages are sent. Depending on the geography, outdoor reception can be an issue, too." -Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Founder & Director, Center for Connected Health, Partners Healthcare

"There are a couple of financial factors: 1) Cost. Pagers are significantly cheaper so giving 3,000 nurses and physicians pagers at $5/month is significantly cheaper than giving them smartphones. 2) Work vs. Home. Does work pay for the smartphone? If so, how to you stop employees from using it (a "company asset") for personal stuff? Is it a personal smartphone? If so, why should the employee allow their employer to use it for work related business? This is a messy issue and you see a lot of people who are carrying multiple mobile devices (pager, work smartphone, personal cell phone) as a result.

The 'I didn't get the page' comment is one you get a lot. With cell phones, you get more two-way communication that gets around the one-way pager excuse that some use to avoid people." -George Brenckle, SVP & CIO, UMass Memorial Healthcare

"Along with the financial factors there is also the issue of coverage both inside and outside of buildings. Getting coverage for pagers in building is still easier and less expensive than for cell phones. Getting cell signal in remote areas is extremely difficult, and while not easy with paging, it is easier." -Phil Clough, CTO at Berkshire Health Systems

"What are pagers? ;-)" -Dr. Ahmad Risk, Alif Healthcare