New report shows weaknesses of hospital pagers

Many medical professionals still rely on pagers for communication on-site.

New modernization efforts may address the weaknesses of pagers.
October 13, 2016

Updating technology can keep hospitals ready to handle the latest industry-related changes. Trend Micro recently highlighted one particular device that's still in use in healthcare settings despite fading out of the public consciousness years ago.

As the report stated, pagers have been in use for far longer in healthcare than in the general business world and now pose a possible security problem, since they predate many of the common digital privacy protections organizations are familiar with. In particular, pagers don't have the encryption capabilities of many modern devices.

However, since mobile coverage is still an issue for many facilities, the pager is seen as a simple way to communicate that uses low amounts of power and can be brought into high-stress situations, such as operating rooms. The report advocated for better encryption and authentication as a remedy, as well as enforcing best practices to keep users from transmitting multiple personal health information factors.

"Pagers don't have the encryption capabilities that modern devices have."

Other research also confirms the large presence that pagers still have for doctors. Research from Frost & Sullivan, which appeared in The Boston Globe this February, said that pagers are still necessary in around 85 percent of hospitals.

The source also spoke to CIO John Halamka of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: He mentioned that pagers still work when cellular devices are "shut off," as they were during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Despite this, the drive for modernization may replace pagers with more secure messaging methods.

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