Beepers: Buh-Bye


image courtesy flickr's elainegreycats

image courtesy flickr's elainegreycats

One of my favorite emergency physician bloggers, Ten out of Ten, wrote a great piece last week about loathing the beeper, and I can only sing the same tune.

It absolutely blows my mind how much time I can spend trying to page a private medical doctor or consultant.

  1. Call the private’s office.
  2. Try hitting 0, but this only works 30% of the time, and sometimes it’s a random button like “8” to reach the operating service.
  3. Speak with operating service, repeating my name, hospital, phone number, patient’s name, and date of birth three times over, slooowwwly.
  4. Private eventually responds, tell quick story, find out private wants to use the hospitalist or resident service.
  5. Call the hospitalist.
  6. 2-3 pages later, right in the middle of a discussion with another patient, hospitalist responds, or resident service responds, but they’re capped, or I’ve been paging the wrong number, finally sign patient out.
  7. As Ten out of Ten suggests, please for the love of all that is good and efficient, let’s use cellphones. Why are we still carrying around 1980s drug dealer-style boxes when we already have a fancy-schmancy voice and text-capable device with us at all times anyway? (Okay fine, let’s do a big study and confirm, once and for all, that cellphones don’t do anything to medical equipment, and then do away with beepers.)

    And why not use some sort of software/web solution like Google Voice to do all the work? Call one phone number, and it automatically forwards to the on-call cellphone. If the call is not answered, you leave a voicemail, and a text message is sent to the phone every 10 minutes until someone responds. That way you have the convenience of a pager (call back when you’re available) along with the direct-connection of a cellphone. And the call schedule is automatically fed into the system so it autoforwards without anyone intervening; if something gets goofed up, you just login to the website, click a button, and re-route the calls to someone else.

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  1. #1 by LH - August 9th, 2009 at 16:35

    Thought I’d comment that most residents don’t use pagers much anyway — we all bumped up our text plans to unlimited and use that instead. Much easier than dropping everything to find the nearest phone when the pager goes off.

    Now if we could only get the hospital to reimburse our texts…

  2. #2 by religion - August 14th, 2009 at 14:44

    Pagers? What an old topic

  3. #3 by Hsiung - April 12th, 2010 at 00:29

    Interesting blog just accidentally bumped into. Pagers won’t go away just yet because of the older folks who can’t text or have difficulty using computer entry. The other aspect is security. My hospital has at some aspects cell phones, but everyone still have pagers. I give it another 5 years.

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