Ever been in a hospital and seen a sign that says “Please turn off your cell phone” or the classic red circle and slash with a cell phone image in it? If so, you have likely heard that cell phones can interfere with medical care equipment and this is why it is important to make sure your cell phone is off when entering a hospital.
I personally always thought this idea was faulty. How could a cellular device interfere with medical devices that do not use some form of wireless transmission? Are medical devices that fragile that a cellular signal can cause them to malfunction or stop working? If so, would not radio waves, X-Ray’s, or the occasional solar flare grind the medical equipment at my local hospital to a halt? Keep in mind that cell signals are being broadcast throughout service areas, so they are already present; using a phone just sends that same signal back.
Luckily for me some far more experience researchers at the world famous Mayo Clinic have determined that normal use of cell phones have no noticeable effect on medical equipment. Using two different cell phones, employing the two technologies uses in the North American cellular markets, on 192 different medical devices. This realization has spurred hospital administrators to review the policy regarding the use of cell phones in their facilities.
This is good news for family members who would have to leave the building – and the person they are visiting – to make a call. In the past it has caused inconvenience to patients and visitors alike. It must have also caused inconvenience to many doctors who depend on pagers – same kind of technology as cell phones – and cells for emergency contact.
I believe this kind of ban has been lifted for quite some time in the UK and other western European countries. I am glad to see someone finally put this particular urban myth to the test. I call it a myth since I have been unable to find any evidence that cellular phones have ever caused trouble for the equipment we depend on in our hospitals.