If it’s not broken…Before the NHS rushes out to bin all 130,000 pagers, it is worth briefly considering whether there may be any good reasons that people are using this antiquated technology. Pagers have some big technical advantages. They have a long battery life. They use radio waves, which are better at penetrating the thick walls you find in some parts of hospitals. They also run on their own dedicated network, which is less likely to get overwhelmed during an emergency. There are also social reasons that pagers are preferable. Because they are so simple, it makes it difficult to share information that would breach patient privacy. When medical staff began using mobiles, they created lots of disruptions, led to less professional communication and there was less clarity about which messages were urgent and which were not. It also significantly increased the number of interruptions clinical staff faced while working. Such increases in disruptions might be bad for patients, too. After all, we know that distracted doctors are more likely to make mistakes. As well as increasing interruptions, doctors using mobile phones spoke less to clinical staff from different specialisms. Mobile phones and messaging systems may crowd out face-to-face interaction – particular beyond one’s immediate colleagues. This can be a problem because it is often during face-to-face interactions that complex information is communicated. Also, because mobile phones can transmit much more data (including photos and videos), the risk of inadvertently sharing information that breaches patient privacy laws is much higher.
Binning pagers might seem like an obvious move. But there are some significant unintended consequences that hospitals need to watch out for including privacy issues, less face-to-face communication and more interruptions. All this reminds us that sometimes outdated and simple forms of technology, such as the pager, can be superior for certain jobs than more complex and up-to-date technology. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.