Docs increasingly use texts to communicate with each other

Doctors at pediatric hospitals are increasingly communicating with each other via text messaging, researchers presenting this week at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans said. Their findings suggest that the use of pagers will continue to dwindle among medical professionals.

For the study, 106 pediatric hospitalists were surveyed on how they communicate with hospital colleagues--such as via cell phone and text message. Nearly all (96 percent) said they used text messaging in their day-to-day life while 92 percent said they used a smartphone. And 57 percent said they either send or receive work-related texts.

Most docs preferred texting (27 percent) to pager use (23 percent) or face-to-face communications (21 percent) with colleagues, although the latter was the most frequent method of communication used (92 percent).

Forty-one percent of physicians, however, had HIPAA concerns over the use of text messaging; 27 percent of respondents said they have received protected health information via a text message, with only 10 percent of respondents saying that their institution offered encryption software to secure those messages.

"We are using text messaging more and more to communicate with other physicians, residents and even to transfer a patient to a different unit," study author Stephanie Kuhlmann, M.D., of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said in a statement. "We've had such a rapid increase in cell phone use, and I'm not sure that hospitals have caught up by putting in place related processes and protocols."

A recently published survey by Lexington, Mass.-based IT security company Imprivata found that most hospital IT decision makers believe that text messaging will supplant paging in the healthcare industry within the next three years. Of 114 decision-makers surveyed, 70 percent said they believed that smartphone use will continue to rise, while pager use will continue to decline.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the accompanying announcement