Questions often asked by many health care professionals in regards to pagers: Why can’t my phone replace a pager? Why am I still using an archaic device that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s? These are the types of questions that led Emory Hospital to start a pilot program to look into replacing pagers with smart phones (iPhone, Android, and Blackberry) – so far 850 users are enrolled, with more being added.

CIO has a great report on some of the hurdles facing health IT workers when attempting this transition.  The main issues being: Reliability, durability, and issues that arise when a phone is out of coverage.

Minus the obvious drawbacks of having to rely on a cell tower for coverage, smart phones do offer some advantages:

Technically speaking, smartphones have many advantages over the pager. For starters, smartphones have built-in encryption making them more secure than pagers. Another key advantage: Smartphones can both send and receive messages whereas a pager only receives messages. This means that the smartphone can let IT know if a message was received and even opened.

Speaking in terms of coverage, Verizon appears to easily be the provider of choice for Emory hospital:

Flanagan says he could move everyone off pagers tomorrow—if everyone was on Verizon (VZ). Reliable multi-carrier coverage is the problem that pushes pager-replacement programs years out.
It’s not that Verizon is better than AT&T (although by many accounts, it is) or Sprint (S) or T-Mobile. Rather, Emory University’s system is already set up on Verizon. Verizon coverage has been thoroughly tested throughout the hospital. There’s even a Verizon rep on campus ready to hand out replacement phones in case a phone becomes damaged.

Two things are apparent from the article. Replacing your pager with a smart phone is not as easy as it seems – the report goes on to mention how special ring tones need to be set up by administrators, and how this is achieved, along with a host of other issues that might appear mundane on initial pass. Second, the wireless provider used is key – e.g. you can’t use AT&T if your hospital doesn’t get good coverage throughout the wards.

Source: CIO news