'Cockroaches of the healthcare system': Why many physicians still use pagers

Despite healthcare's smartphone-enabled digital transformation, many physicians still prefer using good old-fashioned beepers, The Wall Street Journal reported May 19.

"They're like the cockroaches of the healthcare system," Meredith Barrett, MD, an assistant professor of transplant surgery at Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine, told the newspaper. "They won't go away."

She said her pager sometimes works in places where her phone doesn't, gives her more control and time to process messages, and helps divide her work-home life because she can leave it in her car when she's not on call.

Secure text messaging via phones has surpassed the use of pagers at hospitals, according to research cited by the Journal. But the boxy old devices still come in handy in certain situations.

Community Hospital of the Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula turned to pagers when a storm caused cellular and electrical outages in March, allowing on-call medical staff to go home instead of staying at the hospital, according to the story.

Colm McCarthy, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Fall River, Mass., told the newspaper he has four apps on his phone to communicate with patients at his hospital. With the latest one, he receives a message with a phone number that he then has to call to get the patient's phone number.

"I was constantly ranting about how this is ridiculous that we use technology from the '80s when we have a computer in our pocket," he told the Journal. "Now that I have that, I'm screaming to get my pager back."

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