Patient Safety from Electromagnetic Interference from Cell Phones in Hospitals

Common equipment like cell phone is capable of disturbing the finely tuned function of the nearby equipments.

The danger of erratic functioning of biomedical equipment due to the electromagnetic waves emitted by the cell phones has been a point of research and wide discussion. Some researchers have commented that the effect is negligible, whereas the others have found the effect to be significant.

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Researchers at University of Amsterdam have recorded nearly 50 incidents of electromagnetic interference from cell phone use in hospitals and classified 75% of them as significant or hazardous.

The researchers are of the view that the mobile phones should come no closer than 1 meter to hospital beds and equipment, as they are likely to induce errors in the functioning of equipment such as ventilators, pacemakers, and syringe pumps.

They have observed that the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) signal generation technology that allows wireless internet access has been particularly associated with the problem.

While researchers may vary in their findings and views on the matter, prudence demands caution.

Even, if there are some chances of their interfering with the functioning of vital equipments and jeopardizing the chances of survival of even one patient, the right course should be to ban the use of cell phones in the critical care areas. As such, also, these areas are silence zones requiring minimal noise.

People, once they start talking on the cell phone, often forget where they are, how loudly they are talking and how much disturbance they are causing.

And not one, there may be many people busy chatting on their cell phones at the same time in that area.

Therefore, to ensure the safe error-free functioning of equipment as well as to prevent noise pollution in the critical care areas, it would be prudent to prohibit the use of cell phones in these areas even by doctors and nurses.

A notice, as given below and prominently displayed outside as well as inside these areas, should help in enforcing the compliance by all (including the doctors and nurses).

The security guard outside these areas may ensure that the visitor’s cell phone is switched off before allowing him/her to enter the area. The SR/sister in-charge, in the area should have full authority to check any one violating the rules.

“Use of Cell Phones Is Strictly Prohibited Inside the ICU. Please Switch Off Your Cell Phone or Leave It Outside, Before Entering the ICU”.