Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Calling Dr Welby (on a cell)

One of the worst parts of the hospital experience is being cut off from one's support system (family and friends). As a society, we've become so reliant on cellphones (including texting and emoticons) for instant communication. When that's denied us, as is usually the case in an ER or a waiting room, it can make the situation feel even worse. Of course, there may be perfectly understandable reasons for banning cell phones in these circumstances, but that doesn't make one feel any better about the sense of enforced isolation.
Well, that may soon be changing:
There's been a technological basis for the cell phone ban; the devices could interfere with certain medical equipment, for example. On the other hand, enhanced communication between patients (and patients' families) and provider can actually help speed up the healing process. It's an area of transparency, by the way, which we've never really addressed. Add in laptops and Blackberries, and you've got a recipe for either disaster, or better communication and outcomes:
"An increasing number of patients arrive with laptops and other means of communication and are frustrated if they cannot connect with the outside world, says Andrew Cooper, information technology manager at the Zangmeister Center, an oncology and hematology clinic in Columbus, Ohio. It has installed a $70,000 antenna system for better cellphone use."
The clinic recognized that it could use the technology to enhance the treatment process, by encouraging (and enabling) patients and families in its use:
"By putting the antenna inside the medical facility, the phone signals are reduced, and engineers can measure and better control the electromagnetic energy in-house."
Several other area hospitals are apparently following suit, although this is by no means an indication that the practice either is, or soon will be, ubiquitous. Still, competition is a wonderful thing: if enough facilities take the leap, there will be increased pressure on those who've taking a pass.
It's another example, as well, of the private sector seeing a need (and a potential improvement) and acting to "make it so."
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