Many of us who work in hospitals have an anecdote like this one, about a surgeon whose cell phone goes off at an inopportune moment. Some medical students express shock — shock! — that attendings could violate hospital policy so brazenly. But alas, these docs are simply following evidence-based medicine:
In their most recent analysis of cellular telephones and medical equipment, Mayo Clinic researchers report in the October issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings that the cellular telephones tested did not interfere with medical devices that were more than three feet away, marking an improvement. In the current study, 44 percent of the devices recorded some interference from the cellular telephones but the vast majority of this interference should not have had any significance for the patient.
…Sixteen different medical devices were tested and interference occurred in seven (44 percent). The researchers conducted 510 tests by holding the phone next to the devices and then rotating it once a call was received from a wired telephone. The cellular phones were placed near vulnerable sites on the device, such as serial ports, cable connection ports and displays.
The farthest distance away that a device was affected was 32 inches. Most interference occurred with devices that display electrocardiographic (ECG) or electroencephalographic (EEG) waveforms and involved noise interference… Two ventilator devices also experienced interference.
The rules restricting cell phone usage in hospitals dates back to those crazy analog phones, which could disrupt TV transmissions and bring down airliners. The rules are still posted in hospitals, we suspect, for legal coverage, crowd-control purposes — and because there’s something unseemly about a patient animatedly gabbing away while being wheeled around on a stretcher.
Flashback: Cell Phone Restrictions Under Review