There is perhaps no piece of technology more associated with doctors than the humble pager, the shrill and demanding black box that still serves as an essential communication tool, even in an era of cellphones and smartwatches.
But a number of companies are vying to do away with the gadget and bring medicine into the digital age. Pagers provide limited, one-way communication. There's no way of tracking whether someone has received the message. There's also no way to forward the message to someone else or to include attachments, such as images.
“It's just a one-way ping,” said Brad Brooks, CEO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based TigerText, the largest player in this space. “That's just an obvious low-hanging fruit.”
TigerText has more customers in this market than any other company and is the brand most associated with secure messaging platforms, according to an October report from Klas Research.
Its product includes the messaging app for use on smartphones, as well as the TigerConnect platform, which synchronizes with a desktop.
TigerText's messaging platform allows providers to create a network of authenticated users who can share and receive information, including images, audio and video. Users also can forward messages to others in the network. There are do-not-disturb and auto-forward features, so that messages reach whoever is on call during a particular shift.
And the technology can reproduce the experience of a pager—that loud, repetitive beeping that's impossible to ignore—by allowing users to set a priority status for messages.
For security purposes, the data that's transmitted through TigerText reside in the app, not the user's smartphone.
The benefits, TigerText says, also extend beyond a more streamlined communications process. “There's sort of a tendency to deprecate it as, oh, this is just an IT project,” Brooks said. “This is truly a transformative opportunity at a very low cost. There's just an easy, crazy, off-the-charts ROI.”
Pagers themselves are expensive, costing about $9 a month for each device, compared with secure messaging platforms that are less than $5 a month, according to a study that TigerText released last month with HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.