Are Alphanumeric Pagers Obsolete? That Depends.
Posted by Clark Venable on 2/23/2007
Ever since I was an intern I've worn a pager while at the hospital--and at a lot of other times, too. They used to be as big as a pack of three by five cards, but now they're quite tiny (think matchbox). But it's still an item you have to remember to put on each day, an item that weighs on your waistline. Back when there were only pagers that wasn't a big deal. Wearing a pager was a status symbol.
But now that belt or waistline space is more crowded. There's probably a cell phone and a PDA. There may also be a Spectralink phone or two for in-hospital calls. If you're really important, you may have more than one or two pagers. It's enough to make your scrubs sag.
Someone explained to me once (and I don't have a reference for this) that FCC law prevents device manufacturers from integrating a digital pager into another electronic device such as a cell phone or pda and that this was done to protect the paging industry. Is that true? Does anyone know?
My group still carries pagers because we know they always work, no matter where we are. In a surgery center in the basement of a medical office building or far out of town, away from cell towers, the digital pager will let us know someone wants to talk to us.
As the Palmdoc Chronicles points out in his post titled Alternative to Paging, there are more options than there used to be: SMS/Texting, Push E-mail, IM, Push to talk. To the best of my knowledge, however, none of them offer the reliability of paging. If someone needs to be intubated, or needs an epidural, or is coding, 'Sorry, did you IM me? I didn't get it' isn't going to cut it.
The one upgrade I would love to have to our pagers is the ability to send text messages over them. For example, instead of getting paged to '3968', calling that number only to be asked to go do an epidural in labor room 8, I could just receive the message on the pager: 'Epidural labor 8.' See? Our pagers are hospital provided and the service I describe costs more. I have not been sufficiently persuasive in my appeals to get them to spring for the extra feature. When I offered to pay for the cost of the alphanumeric service over and above what regular digital paging service costs, I was told we can't do that either because they can't 'split out' a subgroup of the pagers.
Now, I realize I'm just an unfrozen caveman anesthesiologist, but if you know that 40 pagers are using a service that costs ten dollars more per month and I cut you a check for $400 each month, wouldn't that make us even?
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