“Trust is always earned, never given.”
For physicians who have relied on pagers for decades, it can be difficult to place the same level of trust in smartphones. While many clinicians have embraced smartphones as an upgrade to legacy mobile phones, landline phones and overhead paging, many physicians have held out, fearful that relinquishing their pagers means giving up control over how they receive critical communications.
Those fears are completely understandable, given the importance of timely information in the delivery of high-quality patient care. With any new technology, we need to reach a balance between the risks inherent in trying something new with the trust that builds over time. Following are some examples of how Voalte customers are easing physicians away from pagers and toward smartphones for secure texting and alerts.
Start young. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford rolled out Voalte One on shared smartphones to housestaff – the interns, residents and fellows who rotate frequently in an academic medical hospital setting. With the majority of housestaff made up of younger generations, the hospital found this demographic was comfortable working with smartphones and highly likely to adopt the new technology and accompanying new processes. Project managers established communication guidelines for when to use texting via smartphone (for brief, non-urgent communication) versus when to use pagers (for acute, time-sensitive or complex scenarios).
Similarly, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center conducted a quality improvement study on reducing interdisciplinary communication failures by adding the Voalte Me app to residents’ personal smartphones. The authors explain, “Our objective during the study period was to reduce potential communication failures between residents and nurses by > 25% within 1 month of system implementation. … Following our intervention, combined potential communication failures across both secure text message and paging systems decreased to a median daily rate of 2.2%, which represents a 59% reduction in communication failures.”
Start small. Avera Health has been successful in transitioning physicians gradually to smartphones over a number of years, with more than 900 providers now using Voalte Me.
“Like many health systems, at Avera one of our toughest challenges has been physician communication,” according to Dr. Andrew Burchett, CMIO of Avera Health. “We used to joke that it took 10 ways and 10 different times to get information in front of a provider. Starting in 2014, Voalte was a natural solution for pager replacement because all of us have our smartphones handy all the time. It’s taken some time, but eventually those providers who didn’t have Voalte Me on their smartphones felt out of the loop and wanted to be let in.”
Trust has grown as Avera Health providers have seen success with secure texting, such as this STEMI story in the video below:
Other customers are opting to integrate Voalte smartphones with existing paging systems so their staff can depend on a familiar console, directory and operating procedures, while building trust in using the smartphone instead of the pager as the endpoint device.
Start smart. New advanced features answer some physician concerns about switching from pagers to smartphones. A new Critical Alert feature on the Apple iPhone, for example, allows important alerts to ring loudly, even if the user has Do Not Disturb (DND) enabled or the ringer set to mute. It makes sense that a physician might want to use DND and mute for personal applications, while allowing critical alerts such as a Code Blue or an urgent page to be delivered via Voalte Me. Features like these will prove to physicians that their smartphones can do a lot more than their pagers, allowing them to work smarter and faster than in the past. Other advanced features answer physicians’ concerns about privacy, such as masking the number when a physician calls a nurse from his or her personal smartphone.
Using a powerful Enrollment Manager, health systems are rolling out the Voalte Me app to physicians in a way that enhances the user experience and simplifies the process for system administrators. Not only can admins track basic adoption and enrollment, but by using Voalte Insight they can also monitor how physicians are communicating with the rest of the care team. (The average time it takes a physician to read a text message sent from a specific nursing role, for example.)
The move away from pagers and toward smartphones is still going to take some time. But as we begin to build trust and show real benefits, more and more physicians will put down their pagers and start relying on their smartphones for secure texting and alerts.
Alex Brown is Director of Strategy at Voalte.