Technically Speaking: R.I.P. 888-8616

Pager replacement, despite losing some key team members, continues to roll slowly along. The latest change is that the hospitalists (officially the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine) have retired our on-call pager. 

The 888-8616 number has become legendary over the past few decades. Did we once get paged by an outside emergency department trying to transfer an 85-year-old woman? Yes, but she was intubated, so we referred the caller to UNMC. Have we listed it as a contact number when ordering late-night take out? Yep. Have we gotten paged by federal agents or U.S. attorneys? Yeah…to both. Was it featured in new provider training? If not, it probably should have been. We liked to think that everyone had it secretly written on the back of their ID badge. Was it as cool as the bat signal?  No, but it served the same function—when you needed help and didn’t know where to turn, you picked up the phone and dialed.

My colleagues and I have faithfully forwarded that number among ourselves as long as I’ve worked at Children’s, which has ensured that anyone in the world can reach us 24/7/365. Sure, there was the Christmas of 2008, when I forgot to forward it in a post-call brain fog, left it in the car at a holiday gathering, and returned hours later to find two dozen messages from 5150 and 5400 (oops), but 99.9 percent of the time it worked just fine.

However, as we started using Voalte more and more, the on-call pager became redundant. It was just easier for us to send and receive asynchronous messages for non-urgent matters while still maintaining the ability for other staff to call our mobile phones in the event of an emergency. Plus, it was extra work to keep it forwarded, and having pagers at all was costing our division thousands of dollars every year.  So we got rid of it.

Going forward, there will be two sanctioned ways to contact the hospitalist on call. 

The first is to search for On Call Hospitalist in Voalte and either send a message or call. Please only call in urgent or emergent situations—we handle so many conversations simultaneously that interruptive calls would cripple the on-call physician’s ability to get any work done! We promise to extend other providers the same courtesy. When sending messages, please remember to use two identifiers and close communication loops when appropriate. If you’re trying to reach a specific provider during the day, you can browse for them in Voalte. If you need to reach a certain patient’s hospitalist, check the Attending column in Epic. After 5 p.m., please message the on-call hospitalist.

The second is to call the Communication Center (operator) and ask to contact the on-call hospitalist.  They’ll send us a Voalte message with your name and phone number, and we’ll call you back. It’s the same workflow as using a pager when you don’t know who you’re trying to reach (ah, the good old days!) and will be the most useful method for rotating residents from UNMC who aren’t on Voalte.

Change is always hard, and the retirement of 888-8616 is no exception. We’re sure there will be some bumps along the way, but we’re also confident that we can work through them and continue to provide the excellent responsiveness you all have come to expect.

Thanks for bearing with us and for all you do! 

Stephen Dolter, M.D., CMIO

One comment

  • Andrew Macfadyen, MD

    Welcome to life without a pager! It’s pretty awesome as I found out after 31 years of carrying one. How a 2 ounce piece of plastic could feel so heavy and restrictive is one of life’s great mysteries.

Leave a Reply to Andrew Macfadyen, MD Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *