British hospitals’ cellphone ban really manages behavior

So the British are banning cellphones. Hospital cellphone ban under the stethoscope – Engadget – www.engadget.com. At Maimonides we just went the other way and removed the prohibition.

The data on close reading has become increasingly persuasive that we were merely managing behavior with the ban, not a true technical problem. A thoughtful nursing leader commented to me,

“Another myth that drove policy? I believe our challenge is one of enforcing civility; the myth that it may interfere with the patient’s electromechanical well-being was easier to convey than a request for good judgement and respect for a manageable environment. My nephew is a pilot and the manager of a private airport in DC, I asked him about the airline requirement; interesting response and he admits, it is more about managing the environment than the threat of real electromechanical interference! I guess the only good news for nursing is one less rule to enforce, as for the workplace, another example of who is really in charge.”

Since the radio frequency (RF) environment in hospitals is increasingly a challenge and will only become more so, you might want to review the current data and opinion before you act. For the primary sources view the FDA’s site which though it hasn’t been updated since October 2002 is still the place to start. The recent publication of the Mobile Healthcare Alliance updates the older information and helped us decide to allow cellphones throughout the hospital.

Can VoIP survive Congress?

So should emergency physicians hope that VoIP does not survive Congress so that California could better fund its emergency services? Yesterday I pointed to the California Medical Socieity’s President’s proposal. Today, Congress wants to preserve the subsidy for rural and low income “plain old telephone service” (POTS).
The Wednesday, July 7 hearing, “VoIP: Will the Technology Disrupt the Industry or Will Regulation Disrupt the Technology?” should open a small window on this policy making process.
It seems intuitively more reasonable for subsidy to accrue to the same business rather than across businesses. Not that telephone taxes haven’t funded wars, but at least the present subsidy goes to deliver telephone services to more users, not EMS.

California Medical Association President Supports Emergency Services Ballot Initiative

The initiative would add a 3% surcharge to residential and mobile phone bills (free registration required)

Much as I’d like to see support to “help bail out” emergency departments, trauma centers and emergency doctors I don’t think taxing communication services is a good approach, particularly as Vonnage Wins One suggests that we may not have plain old telephone service (POTS) to kick around for much longer as a tax base, or at least that is if we want a modern communication infrastructure; a social good at least as important to our society as emergency health care.