It doesn’t seem that long ago when cell phone usage was banned from hospital premises.    The excuse given was that the frequency of phones interfered with cardiac monitors and other vital equipment needed to treat and monitor patients.

Now it seems that many healthcare facilities are replacing pagers and calls over the PA system with smartphones for communication in and out of the premises to reach the appropriate healthcare provider and submit the needed message. The usage of these phone systems provide a much improved way of communication and getting the message across.

This is, however, not without new problems popping up.

The first issue is one of privacy and security.  Most phone systems currently are not encrypted and in order to be used while maintaining security, smartphones will need to adapt new methods of allowing only the intended party the ability to view the texted message. Shifting to smartphones (which most physicians already own and use now), allows one device to be used (which also provides an accurate record) instead of several different devices.  While this may be true, the usage of pagers is so widespread in facilities, that the shift cannot be accomplished overnight. Then too, a cellphone may not pick up a message in a no-signal buy chocolate inhaler zone which is not a problem for traditional pagers, usually. Integrating the systems allows for messages to interface and not “fall into the cracks” or lost in cyberspace. Integration would also enable messages sent to a team to be received simultaneously regardless of the communication device each member of the team has.

Smartphone usage allows rapid communication between users.  This becomes important in terms of interchange between medical providers in consulting for care of the same patient rather than the old way of waiting until the chart was written and reviewed to get the necessary information or waiting until the physicians could communicate after being paged.

Smartphones have applications that can be downloaded which provide information regarding healthcare options and a complete copy of the PDR (physicians’ desk reference) to get instant information regarding medications in terms of usage, dosage and possible adverse effects.  Having this information at one’s fingertips while treating patients is paramount.

Once privacy issues and encryption is conquered, smartphones will become the next most popular medical device. Who would have thought that everyone would be carrying a medical device at their fingertips?!