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More Hospital Pediatricians Replacing Pagers with Texting

Android smartphone (Johan Larsson/Flickr)A survey of pediatric hospital physicians shows increasing use of mobile phone text messaging rather than pagers among this segment of the medical profession. Pediatrician Stephanie Kuhlmann and colleagues from the Kansas University medical school in Wichita presented their findings yesterday at a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in New Orleans.

The Kansas team posted a questionnaire on a list-serve of pediatric hopitalists — physicians specializing in hospital care — which was completed by 106 respondents. Two-thirds (68%) of the respondents were female, with about six in 10 (62%) in practice for less than 10 years. Smart phone and text messaging use among respondents was nearly universal, with 90 percent and 96 percent respectively using these technologies for any reason.

While nearly all (92%) of hospital pediatricians in the survey say they use face-to-face communication and telephone conversation in the hospital, a majority (57%) also report sending or receiving work-related text messages. About one in 10 respondents (12%) say they send or receive text messages more than 10 times per shift, with half (49%) reporting the receipt of work-related text messages when not scheduled to be on call.

Text messages by pediatric hopitalists are sent largely to and from professional colleagues. Some six in 10 (59%) say they receive work-related text messages from other hospital pediatricans, about a third say they send to or receive messages from fellows or resident physicians, and a quarter (25%) report messaging with sub-specialists and consulting physicians.

Protection of patient information in text messages concerns many of the hospital pediatricians. About four in 10 (41%) say sending or receiving text messages may violate HIPAA rules on protecting patient privacy, with more than a quarter (27%) having received protected information in text messages. Only 10 percent of the respondents, however, say their institution offers encryption software for text messaging.

In addition, four in 10 (41%) respondents say they use their personal phones for text messaging, more than double the 18 percent who use a hospital-assigned phone. Roughly a quarter (23%) of those surveyed still prefer using a hospital-assigned pager.

“We are using text messaging more and more to communicate with other physicians, residents and even to transfer a patient to a different unit,” says Kuhlmann. “We’ve had such a rapid increase in cellphone use, and I’m not sure that hospitals have caught up by putting in place related processes and protocols.”

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Photo: Johan Larsson/Flickr

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