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J Med Syst. 2017 Nov 25;42(1):9. doi: 10.1007/s10916-017-0870-9.

Pagers, Smartphones, and HIPAA: Finding the Best Solution for Electronic Communication of Protected Health Information.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Division of Critical Care, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 1211 21st Avenue South, MAB 422F, Nashville, TN, 37232, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hospital Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA.
Departments of Plastic Surgery and Biomedical Informatics, and the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, USA.


Electronic communication is a topic that applies broadly to the professional activities of every physician and the pager has been the gold standard of communication for decades. We believe that this is a dated technology that is holding clinicians back from better, more efficient alternatives, particularly smartphones. In this manuscript, we examine the paradoxical reliance on pagers in academic medicine, at a time when the use of smartphones and text messaging is the subject of intense scrutiny with respect to its standing under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We provide previously unreported data regarding the electronic communication practices of academic medical centers in the United States, which we obtained through a survey of Designated Institutional Officials. These data highlight both the controversy around text messaging and HIPAA and a puzzling widespread reliance on pagers as an alternative.


Communication; HIPAA; Pagers; Protected health information; Smartphones

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