Paging system reduces stress

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

A new paging system for patients at Sycamore Shoals Hospital may have "customers" asking if they will be receiving a tasty steak dinner before or after they are examined by a doctor.
   The system, which is the same as that used by restaurants such as Outback Steakhouse and P.F. Chang's, is a small "box" that flashes and vibrates to let patients know an admissions clerk is ready for them. The advantage? -- patients can wonder the hospital grounds at their leisure without the worry and boredom associated with waiting.
   "For the most part, it's gone really well. It's not that we can't call out patients names. We just feel like it's more private for them that we don't have to now. They know we know they are here, and that gives them the freedom to walk around and also comforts them," said Bobbie Ward, admissions supervisor at the hospital who is also in charge of the new system.
   When patients come to the information desk for a doctor's appointment or to be admitted, the information receptionist places the patient's name on a list and hands him or her a pager that is numbered according to the control system. When a clerk at one of three admissions desks is ready to register a patient, that clerk notifies the information desk receptionist, who then pages the patient.
   "They (patients) can go into the gift shop, or to the cafeteria, or outside. The pagers work up to one mile," Ward said.
   Hospital Administrator, Scott Williams, came up with the idea to purchase the system from J-Tech, a company based in Boca Raton, Fla. The hospital purchased 20 pagers at a cost of $100 per pager. In a released statement, Williams said the investment was worth the expense if patients find the process of registering to be less stressful.
   "The pagers allow patients the opportunity to even venture outside of the building if necessary," Williams said. "This effort will help departments to remain efficient by moving patients with greater cases through the system."
   Ward said she has received some "strange looks" from a few patients who had never seen the system in a restaurant. "We've had some looks like, 'what is this thing?', We find a lot of people are not familiar with the pager, but they adjust, and it's not anything they can't learn."
   Using the pagers not only aids patient privacy but also eliminates the need for registration clerks to shout in an area that is already crowded and noisy at times. "It's loud in the admitting area, and there are air conditioning blowers in there. It's just kind of awkward to be yelling someone's name," Ward said.
   The system is also used by the X-Ray and Physical Therapy departments. The pagers are sanitized every night and placed on a charger for use the following day.
   "By having the pagers, patients know we are going to get to them as fast as we can. This system helps to alleviate stress and worry that may come from waiting," Ward said.
   Sycamore Shoals Hospital is a 121-bed, acute-care hospital that provides inpatient and outpatient medical/surgical services, a 24-hour emergency department, a Family Birth Center, Level II Nursery, a Women's Diagnostic Center, Physical Therapy department, and a Gero-Psychiatric unit.
   The current facility opened in 1986 and became a founding member of MSHA (Mountain States Health Alliance) in 1998.