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Policies to deal with rude people

In what should be a shock to no one, cell phones* don’t actually interfere with hospital equipment:

Despite signs in hospitals nationwide, little evidence exists that modern cellphone use interferes with medical equipment, and allowing doctors to use cellphones decreases medical errors, a paper in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia finds.

Cellphone bans in hospitals are “annoying, and you’re doing it for no reason. It’s all voodoo,” says Roy Soto, an anesthesiologist at Stony Brook University in New York and lead author of the paper in the February issue.

I’m also guessing they don’t interfere with airplanes. But, in either location, I don’t want to be around some loud talker on their phone. I think these policies are to minimize annoyance to other hospital customers who may be pre-occupied with a steering wheel imbedded in their chest or a heart attack. In other words, they are policies to keep you from being a dick.

When Junior was born, we were at the hospital for near two days. Signs said no cell phones. Yet, each doctor had one and they were on and they answered them. They also had pagers. The reason is no doubt for emergencies and increased efficiency in communication. And I have no issue with that. However, when at the hospital or on a plane and otherwise occupied or just wanting quiet, I don’t want to hear some loud-talking, self-important executive type with the sniffles yammering on and on about shifting paradigms and leveraging resources.

And Mythbusters says they don’t cause explosions at gas pumps either.

* And, yes, I know it’s very rare to actually see a cellular phone these days. Most phones are not cellular at all.

12 Responses to “Policies to deal with rude people”

  1. Addison Says:

    “I’m also guessing they don’t interfere with airplanes.”

    Yeah, they can.
    Not in a huge way, but it’s been demonstrated that they *can* affect various instruments in the cockpit. Getting a IFR-approved GPS installed in a regular plane is *expensive as hell* due to all the testing and verification that has to be done (other equipment not affecting the antenna, etc). Mobile phone interference, it’s unlikely, but not impossible, and I’ve seen tests where some electronics were able to cause deviations in navigational equipment in airliners.

    The other side of that, is they’re not banned. That’s right. The FAR is pretty decently clear on mobile phones – it’s up to the Airline. Of course, they need to test your exact model of mobile phone, with every permuation of equipment that they have, but if they do that, they can allow you to use whatever electronic devices you’d like.

    Of course, it’s easier for them, not to mention less liability, and more potentially profitable, to test one that they get to charge you for. πŸ™‚

    I’ve found, when flying (privately), that I can’t get signals once I get above 2000 feet or so. I’ve heard rumors that that’s a intentional design, because the mobile system expects you to be in range of a few antennas, not all of them. OTOH, the one time I flew over Atlanta to pick up my sister, and she was calling asking where I was (gee, I’m _flying_), my phone got a perfect signal, and it rang constantly. πŸ™‚

    Hospitals – another case of better safe than sorry. Yeah, they shouldn’t cause a problem, but if Junior was in the ICU, would you want to see her machines going haywire, while the “This is an IMPORTANT call!” guy/woman (actually, my experience, women are worse) visiting the next room refused to hang up? And would you sue him/her, or the hospital? I’ve seen 2 or three machines that *all* radios were required to be shut off in the vincinity of. I’d presume that the doctors would know those rules and be able to deal with them better than the visitors… Wait. I’m talking about DOCTORs. Wait, this is about to tangent out of control!

  2. Xrlq Says:

    And, yes, I know it’s very rare to actually see a cellular phone these days. Most phones are not cellular at all.

    What is the definition of “cellular?” Analog, I presume? I remember a few years back when Sprint held its “PCS” service out as an alternative to “cellular,” but I always assumed that was a marketing gimmick.

  3. tgirsch Says:

    Actually (and I did not know this until I just looked it up), they are still cellular phones, whether digital or analog. “Cellular” refers to the division of the network into tower “cells” that handle calls within the cell, and hand off from cell to cell as the phone moves. Digital vs. Analog has nothing to do with whether a phone is “cellular.”

  4. SayUncle Says:

    My electrical engineer friend disagrees. Though I’m not technically savvy enough to know why.

  5. wrangler5 Says:

    I suspect the airline restriction is just minimization of risk on their part. Even if the likelihood of a cell phone interfering with navigation instruments is small, the consequences of interference might be disastrous. A deviation of a half-degree in your direction of flight can add up to a pretty big distance when you’re moving 550mph, and when somebody else is coming at you at the same speed . . .

  6. Ravenwood Says:

    tgirsch is right, even digital mobile phones are cellular. The term has to do with the way they receive their signal. The alternatives to cellular are land-line (wired) or satellite (point to point).

  7. Lyle Says:

    Equipment used routinely inside a hospital generates orders of magnitude more RF interference than any cell phone. Ever drive by a hospital with your radio on? I usually get horrific interference if I’m next to the hospital here in Moscow, Idaho, and it aint from the doctors’ cell phones with their milliwatt RF outputs. If a puny cell phone is going to cause technical problems at all, then a lightning storm 5 miles away is going to initiate Armageddon.

    I’d say 99.9999% of these “your cell phone will kill people” assertions are 99.9999% false, stemming mainly from a debilitating public mental disease I call technophobia.

    Pagers? They receive only – no transmitter there.

  8. Phelps Says:

    Yeah, I was going to chime in, but tg and Ravenwood beat me here. All current mobile phones use cells, making them cellular. And if your EE friend wants to argue about it, the dozen or so patent cases I’ve done in the field should let me hold my own in the TDMA/CDMA/SS7 front. I know all about cells and soft handoffs and MTPs and TCAP and…

  9. CellularphoneSavant Says:

    The hospital and airplane thing, I kind of always figured. But the gas pumps I actually did beleive that cell phones could cause explosions. It seems I saw something on the news or something about an explosion that actually was caused by the cell phone. Was I dreaming?

  10. SayUncle Says:

    Savant, it did happen but mythbusters could not confirm it. They theorize it was actually static electricity from the car seat.

  11. SayUncle » Correction Says:

    […] According to everyone, I was wrong in this post. Modern portable phones apparently are cellular. […]

  12. geekWithA.45 Says:

    I had to look into this, as one aspect of what I do involves WiFi in medical areas.

    Most of the FUD surrounding cell phones in hospitals is a holdover from the well known RFI that happens around high powered police and emt radios. These 5 watt + devices actually _can_ wreak havoc, and it’s been longstanding policy that the EMTs turn their gear off when in sensitive areas.

    This was further compounded by the fact that doctors where early adopters of car/radio phones, which predated cell phone technology. These also where high powered beasties. The early cell phones where car based, and continued in this vien until the “bag phone” debuted. These where 3 watt devices, and it was presumed that the same limitations would apply to them.

    As cell tower networks were built out, it was no longer necessary to boost power to brain frying, battery slurping levels, and the output wattage declined over time to its current miniscule standard.

    Engineering studies on the topic of cell phone sourced RFI in medical environments have been available for some time. The bottom line is that modern cell phones _might_ be an issue if active within 1 meter of critical equipment.

    These studies have not had impact on policy or procedure, partially for reasons of “abundance of caution” (ie: lawsuit proofing), and partially for reasons of administrative inertia.

    The final reason hospitals are only beginning to back off on cell phones is a cultural reason. Hospitals are actually a “sacred space” according to the regimented culture of western medicine, which in part are designed to enforce certain mores concerning the ritual status of the various actors involved.

    Doctors can use their cell phones, because they are the high priests. Patients are relegated to positions of ritual helplessness, and so on and so forth.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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