Why Do Hospitals Still Use Pagers?


Pagers seem like a very archaic way of communicating. They represent one of our first attempts at making instantaneous, electronic communications available to the average consumer, and, as you would expect from our first foray into this new area of technological innovation, they seem vastly inferior to the options that we are all used to today. However, hospitals continue to rely on pagers as their primary means of communication. Doctors aren’t stupid, so why is it that the plucky old pager has retained widespread usage in this one specific area?

The First Pagers

The very first pagers, much like the very first cell phones, were big and bulky devices, some weighing as much as 6 ounces. They were first used in the 1950s, in New York hospitals, where they rapidly gained popularity amongst doctors. The ability to communicate instantly and electronically was a novel concept at the time, but right from the very beginning, it was clear to everyone that this represented the template for future communications systems.

Cell Phone Revolution

By the time 1994 rolled around there were an estimated 61 million pagers in service worldwide, with hospitals still accounting for most of their customer base. It wasn’t before cell phones started to become available and affordable for the average consumer that the pager’s popularity decreased. However, within the context of a hospital setting, the pager remained preferable to cell phones for a number of reasons.

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Although hospitals have retained the pager for communications between staff, the number of pagers still in use in this context is now just a few million, a fraction of what it was a couple of decades ago. It seems that as well as being among the first serious adopters of the technology, doctors will be among the last groups to let go of the technology. Slowly but surely new communications systems are being designed and developed and gradually implemented within hospitals. For now, though, the pager remains the firm favorite.

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The Advantages of Pagers

You may be wondering why it is that the pager has proven so resilient to the advances in communications technology which have led to most people long since abandoning them in favor of the cell phone. One of the key factors behind their continued use in hospitals is that they are very low maintenance, pagers rarely experience serious technical issues and when they do only a minimal amount of technical knowledge is required to fix any issues that arise.

Another key consideration is their ease of use. A cell phone is designed to be a versatile piece of hardware, capable of serving numerous functions. A pager, on the other hand, is designed purely as a communications device and it excels at serving this function. There is no need for it to make calls as text paging can convey the necessary information.

The pager has provided hospitals with reliable and easy to use communications for half a century now. The fact that they have remained popular despite the emergence of technologies that might have made them obsolete is a testament to their resilience and continuing value.

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