Study: 90 Percent of Hospitals Still Use Pagers and Overpay to Maintain Legacy Technology

Feb. 29, 2016
Despite widespread use of smartphones and cell phones among healthcare providers, 90 percent of hospitals still use pagers and overpay by 45 percent to maintain legacy paging services, according to a study using research conducted by HIMSS Analytics.

Despite widespread use of smartphones and other mobile devices among healthcare providers, 90 percent of hospitals still use pagers and overpay by 45 percent to maintain legacy paging services, according to a study by Tiger Text and using research conducted by HIMSS Analytics.

The HIMSS Analytics research is based on a survey of 200 hospitals and findings of the survey indicate that nine out of ten still use pagers and on average spend around $180,000 per year.

“This research uncovered that a significant number of hospitals still rely on pagers as a cost of doing business. ‘Legacy technology’ can be difficult to replace despite that more advanced technology is available,” Bryan Fiekers, director, Advisory Services Group for HIMSS Analytics, said.

Health IT vendor Tiger Text conducted a study, titled “The Hidden Cost of Pagers in Healthcare,” that included research from HIMSS Analytics and other market research.  The HIMSS Analytics research found that the average paging service cost per device was $9.19 per month, compared to industry research showing the cost of secure messaging app alternatives to be less than $5 per month.

According to the study, HIMSS Analytics research revealed significant “soft” costs from the continued use of pagers, including:

A lack of two-way communication was the most commonly cited disadvantage of using pagers among the executives interviewed as part of the study. 

One-way paging does not give recipients full context nor the option to provide feedback or ask questions, costing care teams precious time to manage patient care. 

Pagers were seen in interviews as causing communication gaps by not allowing users to update contact directories and on-call schedules, which are critical to effectively reaching physicians.

Survey respondents noted the inconvenience of carrying and managing more than one device.

The limits of paging systems operating only on a single network was perceived as a significant disadvantage, unlike smartphones which communicate across multiple networks (i.e., cellular, WIFI).

According to the study, one CIO at a leading university hospital who participated in the study said, “Nothing would make me happier than to move away from pagers. At one time, pagers were more convenient, before people had their cell phones on them all the times; however, there are significant challenges with not using updated technology, such as not having a centralized directory, contacts and call schedules. 

The CIO added, “I think people are going to be happy to shed a device and instead walk around with a device that is theirs and that they already rely upon every day.  I think we are in a transition state.”

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