From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Can Cell Phone Use by Medical Personnel Increase Patient Safety?

Researchers presented figures supporting this observation in February. They say cell phones bring more timely communication to hospital care, and no longer present a significant danger of electronic magnetic interference with hospital equipment.

The study, published in February in Anesthesia & Analgesia, is believed to be the first to investigate whether use of cell phones by medical personnel has a beneficial impact on safety. The findings could prompt the wholesale removal of hospital signs banning use of the devices on the premises.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine surveyed attendees at the 2003 meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Sixty-five percent of the 4,018 anesthesiologists who responded reported using pagers as their primary mode of communications and 17 percent said they used cellular telephones. Forty percent of respondents who use pagers reported delays in communications, compared to 31 percent of cell phone users.

The senior author, Dr. Keith Ruskin, associate professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Neurosurgery at the university, said the small risks of electromagnetic interference between mobile telephones and medical devices should be weighed against the potential benefits of improved communication. Dr. Ruskin explained that electronic interference from mobile phones was a problem in the past because of older telemetry equipment and analog cell phones. “The new digital cell phones used much higher power and operate at a different frequency.” He says the reported 2.4 percent prevalence of electronic interference with life support devices such as ventilators, intravenous infusion pumps and monitoring equipment is much lower than the 14.9 percent risk of observed medical error or injury due to a delay in communication.

Source: Yale Bulletin and Calendar