Some Hospitals Not Just Encouraging Mobile Phone Usage, But Installing Technology To Make It Easier

from the well-that's-nice dept

Remember how hospitals were banning mobile phones out of a fear that the signal would interfere with medical equipment? That turned out to not be much of a problem and soon doctors from around the world were clamoring for the right to use their own mobile phones. A recent study even found tremendous benefits in allowing mobile phone usage in hospitals, including better communication among staff members and lower error rates, thanks to that improved communication. The latest is that some hospitals aren’t just allowing mobile phone usage, they’re making it possible by installing local antennas to make it even easier for mobile phones to work. The hospitals point out that this is likely to lower the likelihood of interference, as the mobile phones don’t have to broadcast as strong a signal if the “tower” is so close. Then, of course, there’s the benefit of having happier patients who can more easily stay in touch with friends and family (and also making it easier for those friends and family members to visit). All in all it seems to make a lot of sense, though there are still some holdouts among hospitals that don’t feel there’s enough evidence to allow mobile phones into hospitals just yet.

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Comments on “Some Hospitals Not Just Encouraging Mobile Phone Usage, But Installing Technology To Make It Easier”

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Woody says:


It takes time for the technology to catch up to the times. I do believe we are living in the last 12 pages of the bible. It would be nice if people having long winded conversations would take their cell phone outside or at least not use the walkie talkie feature. The hospitals have always used the RF interference as an excuse. I mean how do you come out and tell people how stupid they look with their cell phone rudeness. Yes its a good thing and the hospitals have simply lied all this time. They should have cell phone etiquette policies for the associates, but they wont be able to control the public, other than keep on lying or have designated blackout (no cell phone calls)areas of the hospital. The hospitals that keep holding out on allowing the calls are vain. BLAH BLAH BLAH

Kevin says:


I do believe we are living in the last 12 pages of the bible.

It’s pretty hard to take your comments seriously when you lead off with an obviously ridiculous comment like the one above. For starters, the last 12 pages of the bible (at least my bible) is only about 6″ x 8″ x .002″, whereas I am much larger than that. Not to mention that there are no toilets in the last 12 pages of the bible, which I find myself using several times a day. Ergo, we must not be living in the last 12 pages of the bible.

But back to the article, I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why hospitals have banned cell phones. Some have blamed it on the possibility of interference with medical equipment (not likely). Other hospitals have claimed that that it could interfere with communications systems that they have installed (really not likely). But I think that a lot of it does come down to the fact that hospitals are supposed to be a place of recuperation, and having some degree of peace and quiet is much more conducive to healing than hearing 73 cell phones ringing at the same time while some jerk is yelling into the handset.

At the hospital that I worked at (until recently), we allowed cellphones pretty much facility wide. There were some surgeons who actually would be in the middle of a surgical case and talking on the phone via their bluetooth headset. We used Nextel phones and the direct-connect all of the time to communicate between different departments when coordination was needed.

chris (profile) says:


For starters, the last 12 pages of the bible (at least my bible) is only about 6″ x 8″ x .002″, whereas I am much larger than that. Not to mention that there are no toilets in the last 12 pages of the bible, which I find myself using several times a day. Ergo, we must not be living in the last 12 pages of the bible.

god’s bible is significantly larger and more awesome than yours. so great is it’s largosity and aweseomity that we will be able to live forever in complete comfort using just the last 12 pages.

god’s bible can clearly beat up your bible.

The Man says:


When I was a cop I had to take a prisoner to the ER to get medically cleared for jail. While there, I used my Nextel 2 way to talk with another officer. I was standing outside the curtin of a very sick old lady on a heart monitor. When I pressed the button to talk, the machine flat lined and let out that BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP noise you are familar with when people die in hospitals on TV. When I depressed the button the machine went back to normal. Of course I had to try it again to confirm the radio was the cause, which it was.

I don’t think it caused any harm, but it really did interfear with the equipment. This has been a while back, so my guess is they have shielded the equipment better since then.

KW says:

Wireless internet next?

This is good news. My father has been in and out of the hospital for 6 years now. What would be even better is wireless internet access in hospitals. Wireless internet would allow family members to work remotely next to the patient. Not only making the patient happier because they’re not alone, but also making the nurse’s job easier. With family members by the patient’s side, they can help with tasks such as feeding the patient, calming the patient down, etc.

Kevin says:

Wireless Internet

A lot of hospitals do have open wireless now, but usually they do not have open access in patient care areas. Most hospitals are moving to 802.11 wireless devices for use in patient care, and since wireless is shared media they don’t want to have to contend for bandwidth with some patients friend who is downloading files from a P2P network. So they use open APs in waiting areas and lobbies, and then secure the APs in patient care areas (and they usually route to different networks as well).

Craig (profile) says:

I agree...but...

CNN doesn’t. Their doc-cum-reporter Sanjay Gupta just aired a video saying a study out of Denmark showed that GSM cellular data transmissions can interfere.

All I know is that many of the best, most high-tech hospitals in the US are distributing phones (both CDMA and GSM) to their medical staff, so I don’t see how this is a significant, widespread problem (wouldn’t all these docs have noticed something odd by now?).


Many hospitals are non profit. That means they can’t just go out and replace all of their old equipment at a whim. That means that many, if not all hospitals come into a situation where they have to use old, unshielded monitoring equipment. For the policeman using the Nextel, imagine that was your mother on the table. Would you want me to have my Nextel doing that to her heart monitor?? Hospitals are constantly waging a battle against lawsuit happy people, because “you caused my Mom to die” So they don;t take any chances.

Andrew Cooper says:

Actual Facts versus Fiction

I am the person interviewed by USA Today regarding the use of cell phones in hospital and clinical settings.

Lets get to the facts. There are no enforced standards on what devices are interfering and at what levels in the US.

Lets look at the studys that have been done. They have all taken the frequency that the cell phone emits at and increased its power and capacity and decreased its normal distance to any device to see if it causes any problem. In those circumstances there has been unconclusive evidence that some interference may exist.

Now lets talk about what the article was directed toward. Companies like Cell Antenna are incredibally helpful as they allow the actual signal strength of the cell phone to be minimized. By putting repeaters in the facility you allow the cell phone to use minimal power to transmit. When there is no such service your cell phone uses more power to attempt to transmit.

The truth is this, It is a organization by organization policy. There may be many reasons why a hospital chooses not to allow cell phones. However, lets be honest, it is easier to use interference as a reson than to say “don’t use it because it is rude”.

In our organization we not only use cell phones but also allow our patients and thier family to use our public Wi-Fi. What needs to be realligned in any organization is how they are using technology. Are they using it for better patient care? That is the goal of any healthcare organization.

Paul Sherman says:

From the trenches

I am a biomedical engineer, I specialize in medical equipment. I also have a background in radio design and repair; one of my specialties is dealing with wireless issues involving medical equipment. I’d like to present my perspective.

Dealing with radio interference is an ongoing challenge, as more medical equipment and more wireless devices come into hospitals, the challenge evolves. Part of the reason there is no national guidance on cell phones, etc. is that by the time the guidance is issued, it would be outdated.

There a fair bit of information published, based on established standards and practical experience that helps hospitals manage their own wireless environment. In particular, ECRI Institute, regarded as the most objective source in the industry, has published numerous guidelines.
More is needed.

Hospitals are struggling with this issue primarily because almost no one in the hospital understands how wireless signals work. The ONLY ones in the hospital that have a chance are those that repair the medical equipment, and very few of those. Only those with a background in radio design, repair or detailed use (usually military or ham), really understand the challenges.

Cell phones and other radios have interfered with medical equipment. That risk will always exist; the physics involved guarantee it. Medical equipment can’t be immunized against EMI – even if it could, no hospital could afford it. The challenge is to balance the risk against the benefits.

Howard (user link) says:

Hospital Cell Phones and Repeaters

The dangerous and realistic situation is when the hospital ignores that people naturally leave their cell phones on with the expectation of service. With no adequate signal coverage in the hospital all of these cell phones operate at high power when calls are made or calls are trying to be made. The high power and close proximity to sensitive equipment ( which most do not have a warning label stating keep away if you have a cell phone) results in the fear that a cell phone might injure or cause the death of a patient by interfering somehow with their drug supply, or monitorung.

That is why companies like ours, Cellantenna corporation, have a thriving business in installing repeaters in hospitals to reduce the overall level of energy of cell phones. We also at the same time enhance Wi-Fi and pagers.

Howard Melamed

Zainab says:

wel i think phones should be allowed my aunt went into labour this morning with her husband this morning yet noone has been able to contact her to see how shes doing. i phoned the hospital to see if they could put me through to her but they said they couldnt, when i asked how she was they said they couldnt discuss details over the phone. then i asked if i could visit her they said yes but i have to ask my aunt first, i said how? they arent allowed to on their phones she said yes theyre no
end of conversation
still have no idea how she is, what stage of labour shes in.. etc

Wireless Communication (user link) says:

2 distinct situations....

There are two different situations in which cell phones are in use in a hospital. First the ability to have a personal cell phone in use throughout the hospital. I’m not sure about the “interference” of the cell/power signals but up to now I believe it’s been a policy issue. When you are at a hospital and using your cell phone for personal communication chances are that you’re talking about medical issues – personal medical issues that anyone could overhear, which can’t be good for patient confidentiality. The second scenario would be a WLAN mobile system for the health care workers covering the whole facility. There are a number of companies including Vocera Communications that have created a wireless communication system that allows the point of care staff to instantly connect to the health care team.

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