Why Pagers Suck!

HIPAA Violations are only the beginning

If you’re a healthcare professional you probably use pagers to communicate with your office and with others in your practice. But did you know that using a pager could cost your office $650K for a HIPAA violation? That seems like a lot of money to spend for the liberty of using a $5 device.

HIPAA Requirements

According to the HIPAA regulations, healthcare organizations using pagers must

  • Ensure that all communications are encrypted
  • Ensure that a system of message accountability is implemented
  • Enable remote removal of messages from a pager to protect the integrity of PHI in the event of a pager being lost or stolen
  • Enable a process for user identification on each device
  • Enable an automatic log-out facility to prevent unauthorized access to PHI when a smartphone is left unattended

Unless you have borrowed a pager from the future, your pager doesn’t meet any of these requirements.

Just don’t do anything memorable

Of course, if a practice doesn’t want to follow these stipulations they have to make sure they don’t mention any identifiable information about the patient in their pager messages. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like doctors playing an elaborate game of charades. Don’t doctors have better things to do then avoid using any identifiable information in discussing a patient in a page? Wouldn’t the doctor and patient best be served by mentioning the patient and identifiable issues in the page?

HIPAA fines

The truth is, most doctors don’t even know that their pagers are a walking HIPAA violation. They simply don’t know that pagers cannot be used to send PHI unless messages are encrypted. Those who are aware, get phone numbers sent to their pager and then contact their office on a smartphone to discuss the patient’s situation. All this shift achieves is making the smartphone the source of the HIPAA violation rather than the pager. This ignorance has a high price. In June of 2016, Catholic Health Care Services which was fined $650K for failing to have patient information encrypted and password-protected on a smartphone. In July of 2016, Advocate Health was charged $5.5 Million for HIPAA violations. Every week, comes up with a new case of hospitals having to pay significant fines for their malfeasance.

Cost to productivity

The use of pagers in hospitals also wastes a considerable amount of physicians’ and nurses’ time. The Ponemon Institute has noted that physicians and nurses waste 46 minutes a day by using pagers and beepers. When you put a dollar amount on this loss you realize that pagers are costing hospitals approximately $1.75 million and the healthcare industry as a whole is feeling an $8 billion pinch. Do you wonder what healthcare could be doing with $8 billion?

Pagers suck!

How much longer can hospitals continue to use pagers? $650K here. $5.5 Million there. After a while, it’s real money.

Read our white paper on the 6 problems with pagers to learn more about the problems with pagers.