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Doctors’ pagers finally headed to gadget graveyard

For more than half a century, doctors have stubbornly stuck by their pagers, even as other workers, from delivery drivers to nuclear-plant engineers, have given them up for more up-to-date communications devices.

Since the first pager was patented in 1949 and used in New York’s Jewish Hospital, millions of doctors have done their daily rounds in hospitals with the gadget clipped to their waistband, always ready to hear the beep that might signal a medical crisis on the other end.

They like the devices’ reliable, far-reaching reception—which can range hundreds of miles—and the weeks and weeks of battery life.

But now pagers are going the way of medicine tins, bleeder knives and other health care relics of bygone eras—mostly over concerns that private health information can be intercepted and compromised, putting patients and hospitals at risk.

Increasingly, hospitals across the country and in Indiana are turning to encrypted software that can be used on smartphones and other mobile gadgets, allowing doctors to communicate by text, voice or video. Some software can even tap into a patient’s electronic medical information, lab results, X-ray and other scan results, speeding up the process of sharing medical information, instead of paging and waiting for callbacks.

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