Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

Summary: A Dutch study shows radiation from data-enabled cell phones can interfere with critical hospital equipment from as far away as 3 meters -- that's 10 feet.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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HP iPaq phoneI was wondering why Dr. Sanjay Gupta was waving his phone in my face this morning as I sweated to the oldies at my local YMCA.

Here's why. A Dutch study shows radiation from data-enabled cell phones can interfere with critical hospital equipment from as far away as 3 meters -- that's 10 feet.

The research team examined the effects of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signals on critical care equipment such as ventilators and pacemakers. Almost 50 EMI incidents were recorded; 75% were significant or hazardous. Hazardous incidents varied from a total switch off and restart of mechanical ventilator and complete stops without alarms in syringe pumps to incorrect pulsing by an external pacemaker.

Most of the problems came from second-generation GPRS gear. Only 13% of the problems came from UMTS gear.

While fans of data phones much prefer faster UMTS models, popular GPRS phones include the HP iPaq and several Nokia models. If your carrier runs under the GSM standard, like T-Mobile chances are your data phone is GPRS. U.S. Here's a complete list of U.S. based GSM carriers.

While we're talking about just one study, and one type of phone, many hospitals already ban cell phone use. It's easy to see this halting recent moves to lift those restrictions.

But we're only talking here about one type of data phone. Newer data phones, and voice phones, don't cause problems. So, should cell phones be totally banned from all hospitals? And what about medical offices in general? [poll id=4]

Topic: Mobility

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16 comments
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  • Improve Hospital Machines

    I would hope that the medical companies could figure out a way to shild their machines from such devices. Even if you ban cell phones, as small as they are now, some folks forget they are turned on. I would hate to see an accident kill someone.
    d_nc
    • Improving cell phones is easier

      One important point is that the newer UMTS phones have fewer problems, far fewer, than the older GPRS models.

      If cell phones can be engineered with this issue in mind, the problem will go away over time.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • No, machines need better shielding

        You cannot control external interference so for critical devices you must shield your sensitive circuits from external RF.

        I'll need to read this report as I engineer RF systems and this is the first I have heard of cell phones interfering w/ medical devices.

        I always laugh at the "no cell-phone" signs. The signals from the cellsites are still bleeding in. One local hospital has a cell tower right on their property! Likewise the maint staff carry 5W handy-talkies and these really spew the RF.

        I recall a local electronics company tried to sue one of the cell carriers as they had a tower near their property and they claimed the RF was preventing them from making accurate measurements. The FCC told them it was their responsibility to shield their equipment as the carrier is licensed to transmit and was not using excessive power.
        otaddy
  • Not a blanket ban, but certainly a limitation on location of usage.

    I would say the best is to limit usage of cell phones to waiting rooms, cafeterias and other non patient care areas. This way you won't be able to use them in and around patients and the equipment that can be affected, but still allow Visitors to be able to use their devices while spending the day with a loved one in the hospital.
    jfp
  • What is wrong with you people

    Dont ban cell phones in hospitals! Know how hard it is to get ahold of a family member if they are there, but not in a room!

    They other issue is.. doctors. They communicate heavily now via cell phones. I think it would be easier to restrict cell phone use in certain areas or FIX CELL PHONES. Fixing cell phones would make more sense, people upgrade their cell phone all the time, so it would make more sense to just fix the new models and be done with it.
    Been_Done_Before
    • Ur right, some hospitals want cell phone coverage

      At my job we are working with a large hospital that wants to use cell phone data services to send critical information to their doctors. The pilot program is using Treo 700's and the Doctors love the service as they can be reached anywhere on the campus.

      The next step is getting the data from the machines so a Dr can be notified, if for example a patient's heart rate becomes erratic.

      Bottom line, there will be more RF not less in the hospitals.
      otaddy
    • The fix is in

      The problem is GPRS will be with us for some time.

      What's important is that future cell phone designs consider this problem, and account for it.

      IT can be done.
      DanaBlankenhorn
    • Banning is bad for doctors and patients...

      As other have said, doctors need the cell phones to make and receive calls and messages, from patients, residents, hospital staff and information systems. And patients really need the cell phones to contact their family; do you know how isolated are patients in most hospitals?

      So, banning is not the solution; medical equipment should be build using higher standards and cell phones should really be built to cause less interference. I am not a telecom engineer, but can't cell phones use spread-spectrum or any other technique to reduce the interference in a single band?


      Regards,

      MV
      MV_z
  • Fix the medical equipment....

    If they are that sensitive then other things will cause issue's

    They use other wireless technologies in hospitals !!!!!!
    A lot of the patient monitors in ICU are wireless and in the emergency room in at least on hospital use portable wireless PC(Desktop on a cart) to go around and check patient's into the hospital
    mrlinux
  • Ridiculous...

    So, I have to turn my cell phone off in the hospital. But I can go right outside the entrance and use it? Right? Now where's the closest tower? On the other side of the hospital from where I'm standing. Where does the signal travel? Through the entire hospital to get to my phone and back. Go figure.
    brilang
    • It's a question of distance

      The power of signals attenuate with distance.

      A signal sent from 2 feet away is going to be more dangerous to equipment than one sent from 20 or 200 feet away.

      It's physics. I know most folks here are more familiar with biology....
      DanaBlankenhorn
  • RE: Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

    Nowhere near as easy as it sounds! Current cells operate with pk pwr of 600mw between 1-2GHz. This means that with lots of metalwork around, transitory spot peaks of 10V/m are inevitable. Ever tried making anything with autoclavable flexible leads RFI proof for CE let alone an octave above?
    12AX7
  • RE: Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

    As a Biomedical Engineer, I know of two cases where a cell phone stopped medical equipment.
    One was a Graseby 3000 infusion pump, the other was an IVAC P2000 Syringe Driver.
    When the phone was turned off, both operated correctly.
    What I don't know is the distance from the phone to the equipment, but I would guess it was less than two meters

    Glenn
    blomfield@...
  • RE: Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

    The medical machines should be shielded against Cell Phone and mobile frequencies. This is the fault of the approval agencies. i have been in several hospitals many times in the last two years I KNOW that all of the technical equipment that has been used on me (monitors, cat scans, X-rays Ultra sound, and dialysis machines) are less than five years old.Think about this , a vehicle could be right out side of th patients window and use up to 100 watts of RF radio energy in the VHF an UHF bands. How does this compare with the six tenths of a watt Max that a hand held cell phone radiates.
    hamiltonboyd@...
  • RE: Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

    NO The medical machines should be shielded against Cell Phone and mobile frequencies. This is the fault of the approval agencies. i have been in several hospitals many times in the last two years I KNOW that all of the technical equipment that has been used on me (monitors, cat scans, X-rays Ultra sound, and dialysis machines) are less than five years old.Think about this , a vehicle could be right out side of th patients window and use up to 100 watts of RF radio energy in the VHF an UHF bands. How does this compare with the six tenths of a watt Max that a hand held cell phone radiates. Hamilton Boyd CET
    hamiltonboyd@...
  • RE: Today's Debate: Ban cell phones from hospitals?

    I would rather take my cell phone outside the hospital than risk human life for the sake of convenience.
    timdixon200@...