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Bringing paging into the future: Healthcare field targeted for paging-enabled smartphones

A developer of wireless enterprise solutions claims it has combined the advantages of paging and mobile phones into one service that can be accessed with a smartphone.
Onset Technology is targeting the healthcare field with the latest enhancement of its METAmessage Advanced Paging Solution. The application offers paging features to smartphones by transmitting information through a cellular connection as well as over secure Wi-Fi connections.
With the solution, the Massachusetts-based company claims healthcare companies can shed multiple devices and cut costs for their I.T. departments.
“Doctors and medical personnel still carry pagers and many have more than one because they work for numerous clinics,” said Zach Silbinger, Onset’s VP of business development.
Silbinger said smartphones are also popular with medical personnel.
“We are offering a solution that provides the ability for doctors and workers to get pages on a smartphone,” he said. “One smartphone is all they would need.”
The solution is available for Research In Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry users as well as devices that run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile, Palm Inc. and Symbian operating systems. Onset said it’s a RIM Platinum Partner and has integrated its advanced paging with all BlackBerry handsets.
More connections
Kitty Weldon, a principal analyst with Current Analysis, said wireless providers are investing heavily to improve the reliability and coverage of their networks and combining cellular and Wi-Fi provides a reliable and convenient enterprise paging solution.
“Moreover as the market has moved from pagers to cellphones, paging companies can no longer afford to maintain their networks as they did before, much less expand them,” Weldon said.
According to Patrick Corr, Onset’s VP of sales, there are more than 6 million pagers in circulation in the United States and the bulk are being used in healthcare.
SkyTel, one of the largest paging service providers in the country, recognizes the importance of the healthcare field for its business. According to officials, about 20% of their new customers are in the hospital and healthcare industry. The company has developed a hospital-specific product called Control Tower. The service is designed to easily route messages to doctors and staff on call, verify messages were received and send emergency alerts.
“We do see continued growth in paging for this segment and we are continuing to explore new product initiatives to meet the specific requirement of the hospital environment,” said Deborah Barnett, SkyTel director of marketing.
Corr said users have grown accustomed to pager functionality and companies count on them for their reliability. But a traditional pager has limitations because a phone is needed to place a call and more than one pager is needed if a doctor works for multiple clinics or hospitals.
With a smartphone, medical workers will not only be able to answer a page immediately but also access medical records and forms because of the handset’s capabilities.
Along with cellular lines, Onset’s solution incorporates Wi-Fi networks, which are becoming standard in hospitals and medical practices. The Wi-Fi access ensures continued communications even in large medical complexes.
The solution is also geared to ensure pages are immediately answered because of a different ringtone and pages are given priority over e-mails, text messages and calls. Another function is the smartphone will not work until a page is acknowledged by the user. The solution also allows companies to monitor the status of pages in when they were sent out, received and answered.
“This is an industry that is not hoping for reliability,” Corr said.
Coverage concerns
Because the technology does use cellular, there are bound to be questions about coverage, especially in areas that have dead zones. Onset officials said that in instances of spotty coverage, networks are going to improve in the future and its paging solution requires the slightest connection for the message to go through.
Heart Clinics Northwest, which has more than 15 clinics in Montana, Idaho and Washington, recently added Onset’s solution for its staff of doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who have BlackBerry handsets. The company’s I.T. department has set up custom alerts so workers know when a page has been sent to their smartphone.
“For healthcare professionals, having one less device to carry around is huge,” Mary Odenthal, Heart Clinics Northwest COO, said in a statement.
Odenthal said many of the clinics employees already used BlackBerry handsets for e-mail and keeping track of their schedules.
“Adding paging capabilities makes perfect sense for us,” Odenthal said.
The company is selling the solution to the market directly and is hopeful to partner with a carrier.
“This is the trend for the future,” Corr said.

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