The American College of Emergency Physicians recently met in New Orleans, and Medgadget was there. While we were often too busy with lectures and committee meetings (and the occasional beignet and Hurricane) to spend much time in the exhibition hall reviewing the latest laryngoscopes, we did catch some news about cell phones that should be of interest:
First, news that doctors and nurses in the ED no longer need to be phone nazis:
Concern that the signals could disrupt telemetry or other medical equipment are based on outmoded studies using older cell phone designs, said A. Joseph Anderson, M.D., of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, and colleagues, at the American College of Emergency Physicians meeting here.
They tested cell phone use in the ED, and found that when the phones were used as intended the signals didn’t disrupt electrocardiograms or set off alarms, they reported.
“As ubiquitous as cell phones are, if they were significant interference there would be daily noticeable disruptions,” the investigators wrote.
As an aside, though, we hope no one doubts the danger of cell phones if used too close to medical equipment, as this case report of an epinephrine drip that turned into a bolus after a cell phone call:
The staff noted that a family member received a phone call on a personal cellular phone just before the patient’s acute episode. The engineering department retrieved the pump in question and set it to deliver a rate of 30 mL per hour. Several personal cell phones were held at a varying distance from the pump while receiving a call. The pump spontaneously delivered at a rate of 999 mL per hour during the time of several test calls. It was concluded that electromagnetic interference from a cellular phone triggered the infusion pump to malfunction and deliver excess epinephrine.
Yikes! But cell phones can be helpful, as another team suggested. As the New York Times is reporting, using the acronym I-C-E can help emergency workers reach a patient’s loved ones:
It stands for In Case of Emergency, and a report presented at a recent gathering of the American Conference of Emergency Physicians said doctors should encourage their patients to start using it.
“We are always faced with situations where patients come into the emergency room and for one reason or another are not able to communicate with us,” said the author of the report, Dr. Dennis McKenna of the Albany Medical Center.
Traditionally, hospital workers have searched for a wallet and then tried to find relatives through the identification inside – a slow and not always successful method.
But with cellphones so common, Dr. McKenna said, hospitals now often search through cellphone address books for clues about whom to contact. While efforts to teach people to add an emergency contact listing have begun, doctors can do more to popularize the idea, he said.
Do yourself a favor and enter an ICE contact on your mobile phone — it may help in an otherwise desperate situation.