Want to save $1.75 million a year? Replace your hospital’s pagers.

Inefficient communication costs the average U.S. hospital $1.75 million a year, according to the Ponemon Institute. But how can hospitals enhance communication efficiency while ensuring the safety of protected health information (PHI)? In a recent webinar, Gregg Malkary, the founder and managing director of the Spyglass Consulting Group, explained how replacing pagers with a secure messaging system can enhance care quality, improve care coordination, and potentially save hospitals the $1.75 million per year that they lose using outdated communication technologies.

Here are the top five reasons Gregg identified for replacing pagers:

  1. Paging systems delay communication and productivity. Providers surveyed in the Ponemon study indicated that pagers were the root cause of delayed care and wasted time during patient admission, emergency response, and patient transfers. On average, inefficient paging workflows cause clinicians to waste approximately one hour per day. That adds up to an annual productivity loss of roughly $900,000 per hospital.
  2. Paging systems are inadequate in supporting care teams. 51 percent of providers surveyed in the Ponemon study expressed concern that antiquated communication systems, like paging, are inefficient, inconvenient, and time consuming. Paging results in endless cycles of telephone tag that impede clinician productivity and negatively impact the quality of patient care. Pagers are one-way communication devices that lack guaranteed message delivery. Clinicians have no way of verifying whether their messages are received, read, acknowledged, or deleted unless the recipient calls the sender back to close the communication loop. If a team member doesn’t respond, it’s difficult to determine if his pager is turned off, if he was busy with a patient, or if the paging system was temporarily down (an all too common occurrence).
  3. Paging systems are increasingly unreliable.66 percent of providers surveyed in the Ponemon study reported that physicians and nurses are still using alphanumeric and numeric pagers to support clinical communication. Paging is especially prevalent among clinicians involved in emerging medical specialties, such as emergency trauma, critical care, and radiology. An Imprivata study found that 68 percent of organizations report that paging systems often crash, losing about 10 percent of pager messages – a loss that can have dire consequences during a medical emergency.
  4. Paging systems are neither secure nor HIPAA compliant. Most systems are unencrypted and lack any form of authentication. If a clinician loses or misplaces her device, anyone can pick it up and read the messages, which may include PHI. To complicate matters further, clinicians report that they often use abbreviations within messages to save time and to conceal identifiable information. Abbreviations can often be misunderstood and can lead to medical errors.
  5. Paging systems are expensive to support and maintain. 43 percent of the providers surveyed by Imprivata own their own paging system network. This means that, for a 500-bed hospital, IT can spend upwards of $500,000 per year managing, maintaining, and supporting its pager network. This cost includes approximately $5 to $7 per month for the cost of each pager, along with the additional monthly cost of providing mobile phones to clinicians, so they can return the pager messages.