Texting Becoming More Commonplace in Hospitals

More pediatric hospital physicians are communicating through cell phone text messaging, rather than using traditional pagers. According to research presented on October 21 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

Since the early '80s, physicians have relied on pagers to contact their colleagues, residents, nurses and staff. However, with the upsurge in cellphone use, and the fact that many cellphones accept pages, many physicians and staff send text messages with questions and requests for assistance.

The study, "Text Messaging as a Means of Communication among Pediatric Hospitalists," was administered by an electronic survey to 106 pediatric hospital physicians. The majority of the physicians surveyed were female (68 percent) and had been in practice for less than 10 years (62 percent). Ninety percent of the responders regularly communicated with a smartphone and 96 percent used text messaging regularly.

The most frequent method of communication in a hospital setting is verbal face-to-face talking (92 percent) and telephone conversations (also 92 percent). Still, more than half of the physicians interviewed (57 percent) reported either sending or receiving work-related text messages, of whom, 12 percent reported sending more than 10 messages per shift. Almost half (49 percent) also reported receiving work-related text messages when not scheduled to be on call. Usually, these text messages were to or from other pediatric hospitalists (59 percent), fellows or resident physicians (34 percent), or sub-specialists and consulting physicians (25 percent).

Forty one percent of the respondents reported receiving text messages on a personal phone (from home) and 18 percent to a phone that the hospital had assigned. Twenty-seven percent said they preferred texting for brief communications, 23 percent preferred a hospital assigned pager and 21 percent preferred verbal communication in a face-to-face setting.

Few physicians reported a hospital policy on texting or HIPPA-encrypted software for texting.

"We are using text messaging more and more to communicate with other physicians, residents and even to transfer a patient to a different unit," said abstract author Stephanie Kuhlmann, MD. "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."

We also need to look at life balance," said Dr. Kuhlman. "It's not easy to leave your cellphone when you're not at work. People still can contact you."

For more information on the study, visit: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/aaop-mph101212.php