What Has Four Buttons and Gets Used More than 32 Million Times Per Week?

The doctors with the best bedside manner always start by getting to know the patient as a person, not a walking list of symptoms. I recently had an appointment with a new physician near downtown Minneapolis who exemplified this practice.  

He scanned my demographic information and started by asking me what I studied in graduate school and what I do for a living. I love sharing the latter at healthcare appointments of any type, because healthcare professionals tend to be surprised that someone not directly delivering patient services also cares about HIPAA. I gave my new physician an overview of Spok’s solution suite and concluded with “We also offer paging solutions.” Paging isn’t as glamorous as some of our other products and services like clinical alerting and secure texting, but there are a lot of people who rely on it every day.

My doctor stood up with a wide smile and said, “Well, of course you do!” He pulled aside his white lab coat to reveal a pager clipped to his waistband. He explained that while he has a smartphone and likes the functionality it offers in his day-to-day workflows, he never goes without his pager. “I trust it,” he said. “It’s never failed [to deliver a message]. My smartphone has.”

He added that besides reliability, he likes the discreetness, noting that his pager is both smaller and quieter than his smartphone. With his phone, an alert could be for anything: an urgent text, a personal message, a patient alert, or even just a software update notice. The volume of messages means his phone makes noise frequently, even when things aren’t urgent. Conversely, he knows that when his pager signals, he needs to attend to a patient.

My doctor illustrated the key benefit of pagers: they are more dependable than smartphones that depend on cellular service or even Wi-Fi coverage. The pager itself is simple and durable. But dependability is about more than just the device. At Spok, we frequently talk about pagers’ reliability in a functional sense—they are not subject to the same congestion as consumer cellular networks where everyone is competing for the same bandwidth. Our paging infrastructure is also redundant—cellular networks are not designed with such redundancies. And Spok now offers pagers with encryption capabilities, so patients’ protected health information (PHI) is secure while still giving doctors a message with context about a patient.

What all of that technical functionality boils down to is a very human and powerful sentiment: trust. You can have confidence in a pager not to let you down. It’s reliable and effective, which are great characteristics of a communication device. But these benefits become invaluable in a healthcare environment when lives are at stake.

That trust is why Spok’s paging network, the largest in the U.S., handles approximately 32 million messages per week. It’s why two-thirds of respondents to our annual BYOD survey said their hospital supports in-house/onsite pagers and 57 percent support wide-area pagers. When you want a message to go through, a pager delivers.