USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is using technology to give patients more freedom and comfort as they wait for appointments.

Clinic 5 recently introduced square pagers similar to the devices handed out to diners waiting for a table at restaurant chains. Controlled by a staff member from a computer, the pagers light up and gently vibrate to notify patients when their clinician is ready to see them.

“It’s about having more freedom, more comfort and really enhancing the patient experience,” said Charlene Martinez, project manager in Hospital Administration.

A pilot program began Feb. 10, and the pagers are expected to be in use across USC Norris Cancer Hospital by the end of March. It is modeled after a similar program in the Gold Lobby of Keck Hospital.

“We took the existing system in place and tailored it to fit our needs,” Martinez said.

The pagers feature small screens for custom messages typed by a staff member and sent through a web-based application accessible through an internal network. Messages can be composed in English and Spanish.

After each use, the pagers are carefully sanitized with a sani-cloth, a disposable germicidal wipe.

The pagers allow patients to roam from the hospital’s traditional waiting areas to the Rainbow Café and outdoor coffee stations, the Harry and Celesta Pappas Quad, Plaza Marketplace and the Jennifer Diamond Cancer Resource Library. The pagers also reduce noise and address HIPAA concerns because hospital staff no longer have to loudly call out patient names.

An interdisciplinary team of USC Norris staff members worked on the program for the past year. About 100 pagers have been purchased.

Although some patients were initially wary, most have responded with excitement, saying they appreciate the effort to ensure visits are as comfortable as possible.

“We’ve received so much great feedback,” Martinez said. “Patients have really taken to it.”

— Douglas Morino