ORLEANS – More pediatric hospital physicians are communicating through cell
phone text messaging, rather than the traditional pager method, according to
research presented Oct. 21 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National
Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
the early 1980s, physicians traditionally have relied on pagers to contact
other physicians, residents, nurses and hospital staff. However, with the surge
in cellphone use – and the fact that many cellphones now accept pages – many
physicians and staff are sending text messages with questions and requests for
In the study, “Text Messaging
as a Means of Communication among Pediatric Hospitalists,” researchers administered
an electronic survey to 106 pediatric hospital physicians. The majority of the
physicians surveyed were female (68 percent) and had been in practice less than
10 years (62 percent). Ninety percent of responders regularly used a smartphone
and 96 percent used text messaging.
The most frequent method of
communication in the hospital setting was verbal face-to-face communication (92
percent) and telephone conversation (92 percent). However, 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. Nearly half (49 percent) also reported receiving
work-related text messages when not scheduled to be on call. Most often these
text messages were to or from other pediatric hospitalists (59 percent),
fellows or resident physicians (34 percent), or subspecialists and consulting
physicians (25 percent).
Forty-one percent of
respondents reportedly received text messages on a personal phone, and 18
percent to a hospital-assigned phone. Twenty-seven percent said they preferred
texting for brief communications; 23 percent preferred a hospital assigned
pager; and 21 percent preferred verbal face-to-face communication.
Few physicians reported that
their hospital had a policy for texting or Health Insurance Portability and Protection
Act (HIPPA)-encrypted software for
“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.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary
care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical
specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants,
children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.