The Evolution of Clinical Communications

The Evolution of Clinical Communications

Throughout history, advancements in clinical communications have allowed caregivers to better coordinate patient care and gradually improve patient outcomes. Now that technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, our communication tools have become smaller, faster, easier to use, and more interconnected than ever before.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the most important historical advancements in electronic clinical communication tools:

Telegraph – invented in 1837; widely adopted in the mid-1800’s

With the invention of the telegraph, for the first time in history communication was no longer limited to the speed at which a physical message could pass between locations. The telegraph proved to be invaluable during the Civil War, and was used to help evacuate and provide care for the wounded soldiers.

Stat: Before the turn of the century, it took 12 days to send a letter from New York to London. After the telegraph was created, users thousands of miles away could communicate within seconds.*

Telephone – invented in 1876; widely adopted in the late 1800’s

The telephone quickly became an all-purpose tool used in the home, business, education and of course, healthcare. In an industry where every second counts, telephones allowed health care providers the ability to reach people at any time, almost anywhere in the Continental U.S. and advance patient care.

Stat: Only 49.2% of homes and apartments had landline phones in the latter half of 2016.*

Public Address (PA) System – invented in 1910; widely adopted in the mid 1900’s

PA systems introduced one-to-many communication to health facilities. This made it possible to quickly announce overhead pages and emergency notification “codes” that require quickly mobilizing a care team.

Stat: In 1913, multiple PA systems were installed throughout the Comiskey Park baseball stadium in Chicago, both to make announcements and to provide musical interludes.*

Pager – invented in 1949; widely adopted in the 1980’s

Even in the age of smartphones, an astounding number of pagers are still used throughout the healthcare industry. While they are simple to use, pagers are clearly not the most efficient and cost-effective means of communication for clinicians.

Stat: Almost 80% of clinicians still use hospital-issued pagers.*

Fax Machine – invented in 1842; widely adopted in the 1980’s

Although the fax machine went through a momentary boom in the 1980’s as the must-have piece of business equipment, it’s heritage goes back well over 150 years to its invention in 1842, when it was called the “Electric Printing Telegraph”. While these clunky machines have faced competition from internet-based alternatives, many are still used in healthcare and in countries that do not yet recognize electronic signatures on contracts.

Stat: In Japan, nearly 100 percent of all companies and 60 percent of private homes have fax machines.*

Cellular Phone – invented in 1973; widely adopted in the 1990’s

While pagers granted users mobility, cell phones went a step further and allowed for two-way mobile communication. This meant that clinicians could be reached anywhere and respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice.

Stat: 89% of healthcare workers use personal smartphones for work.*

Mobile Clinical Communication Platforms – TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Standard founded in 2010; currently being widely adopted

Mobile clinical communication platforms like TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Standard have revolutionized the way care teams care for patients. Along with providing security and HIPAA-compliant messaging, these tools have become systems of record, display, and action for clinicians.

Stat: 96% of physicians use consumer text messaging for patient care coordination, and 30% have admitted to receiving PHI via consumer texting apps.*

To see how advanced clinical communications have become and where the future is leading, take a look at our TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Standard and TigerConnect Clinical Collaboration Platform – Pro products here.


Will O’Connor, M.D. is the Chief Medical Information Officer at TigerConnect. As a physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience, Will is a passionate advocate for rapid advancement across the healthcare industry.