Last week, one of us here at BeckonCall grabbed the phone to get in touch with a physician’s office to clarify a question about insurance coverage for a recent minor procedure. Instead of the usual recorded message directing him to “press 1 for appointments, press 2 for billing,” etc., the machine clicked on after one ring and announced that the practice was closed for the day. And then, the office manager’s voice said, “if you are an existing patient and are calling with an urgent medical question, please call Dr. Smith’s pager at 555-123-4567, pager number 89.”
Make no mistake, we at BeckonCall are well aware of the prevalence of pagers in medical practices. Finding better ways to get in touch with physicians is literally our reason for existence. And indeed, we spend a lot of time talking about the use of legacy technology - like fax machines and pagers - in medical practices. Even so, it was a jolt for our colleague to hear, in the context of being a patient, that he was supposed to set off an irritating alarm screamed from a box on “Dr. Smith’s” hip. This is 2016, after all.
Pager use may be on the decline, but they’re not gone yet. Why? A Slate article published earlier this year by Dr. Allison Bond reviews some of the reasons. It’s a good read, so be sure to check it out. Briefly, though, Bond points to the simplicity of pagers (battery life, for example) and their reliability when receiving messages. She also notes that there is some pride when physicians and other providers are first given a pager, although she’s quick to point out that the novelty wears off in a hurry.
There are a number of other concerns medical providers and practices express when talking about switching away from pagers. Below are a few, as well as responses that might help break the inertia of technological stagnation.