Pagers in Healthcare: New Research Reveals Hidden Cost

For a number of years there have been secure and reliable alternatives to pagers, yet the use of pagers in healthcare continues. Some hospitals have already made the switch to secure messaging platforms, although a great deal still rely on pagers to communicate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers.

Pagers have served the healthcare industry well for a number of decades. The devices are reliable and physicians are comfortable with using them. However, pagers are not without their faults.

Pagers do not allow two-way communication. It is possible to transmit messages to physicians and other healthcare professionals; however, they need to switch to a phone and call in to communicate. Pagers also do not have read receipts. Messages may be sent, but there is no telling whether the message have been received. Confirming receipt of a message invariably involves a considerable amount of phone tag. Pagers are also not HIPAA-compliant. Messages can be sent, but no PHI can be transmitted. Doing so would violate HIPAA Rules.

Smartphones are the natural alternative. Secure messaging apps, such as TigerConnect, allow two-way communication, supports read receipts, and allow multimedia files to be transmitted securely. All transmissions are encrypted, feature authentication controls, and comply with the data security and privacy standards laid down in HIPAA Rules. Furthermore, 96% of physicians already carry a smartphone.

These and other disadvantages have seen the use of pagers in healthcare decline by approximately 11% per year as hospitals realize the benefits of Smartphones. However, many healthcare providers have been slow to make the transition to these alternative forms of communication.

One of the reasons why the use of pagers in healthcare persists is because the devices are perceived to be highly cost-effective, and much cheaper than smartphones and secure messaging apps. However, while numerous studies have been conducted on cost of alternative methods of communication, the actual cost of pagers in healthcare is less well known. There has, until recently, been a lack of reliable data on the cost of continued use of the devices.

HiMSS Analytics Publishes New Data on the Cost of Pagers in Healthcare

HiMSS Analytics has recently published the results of a study that set out to find out more about the cost of pagers in healthcare. HiMSS Analytics is an industry leading provider of intelligence solutions to the healthcare sector, and many healthcare organizations rely on its insight and data to develop future marketing strategies. The company’s research is invaluable to many healthcare providers who use the company’s data when developing new strategic IT roadmaps.

HiMSS Analytics conducted the TigerText-sponsored quantitative study to determine exactly how much hospitals were actually paying to support the use of pagers. Over 200 hospitals that extensively use pagers took part in the study. Respondents all had an active role in the management and purchasing of pagers.

20.2% of respondents said they used pagers to keep in touch with physicians and 21.3% of respondents said the reason for continued use of pagers was because the devices were a low cost means of communication. 18.2% said they used pagers because they saved time.

Healthcare Pager Use is Costs Hospitals More than HIPAA-Compliant Messaging Applications

The results of the study will come as a surprise to many healthcare decision makers. While the use of pagers in healthcare is perceived to offer cost advantages over alternative methods of communication such as Smartphones and secure messaging apps, the reverse was found to be true. The use of pagers in healthcare was actually costing more than the cost of switching to Smartphones.

HiMSS Analytics calculated the cost of supporting pagers in healthcare to be approximately $200,000 per year, while additional costs of between $50 and $200 were also paid by almost half of surveyed organizations. The average cost per pager was determined to be $9.19 per day.

A study conducted by TigerText on the cost covered by healthcare providers that had already made the switch to Smartphones and secure healthcare messaging apps showed the price per device to be $5 per day: $4 lower than it cost large organizations to use pagers for communication.

The cost saving of around $4 per pager, per day, is considerable when multiplied by the number of devices in use by large hospitals. A hospital supporting 500 pagers could make savings of approximately $730,000 per year by switching to secure healthcare messaging apps.  With such high savings to be made, many healthcare organizations may hasten the retirement of pagers and make the switch to Smartphones and secure healthcare messaging apps sooner rather than later.

The report, The Hidden Cost of Pagers In Healthcare, can be downloaded here.

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of