Intended for healthcare professionals


Use of mobile phones in hospitals

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 12 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:767

EMI and beyond

I thank the other contributing authors for their interest and I
apologise for my confusion regarding the isolated case report of mobile
phone-related morbidity (1), this will be actively addressed. Despite
this, the case continues to provide clinical evidence which conflicts with
the stated “mythical” risks of mobile phone use in hospitals (2).

In addition to the previous points on infection control, whilst
hand hygiene measures are vital, in the absence of guidance on adequate
disinfection of these devices, the potential for the cross-contamination
of individuals or clinical environments exists. A ban is not advocated but
the provision of appropriate cleaning guidance may be required.

Very briefly, in regards to alleged cases of inappropriate mobile
phone usage, there have been a number of previous reports in the press,
but few are detailed in the medical literature (3). Further detailed
and exploration of individual cases is not appropriate for this brief
response, but it seems there is a role for the restriction of mobile phone
use during an operative procedure.

Globally, reports have stated that “alarmed at the flood of
complaints against doctors busy talking on the mobile phone in operation
theatres or while seeing patients, the West Bengal government has recently
banned their use in operation theatres and intensive care units”(4). This
marks a change in regional policy and may be very relevant to the current
ongoing debate in the operating/consultation room environments of the UK.

There are emerging issues for the current and future medical mobile
phone user, including that of patient data security and confidentiality
with the increasingly multi-functional “smart” mobile phones. It would
seem beneficial to evaluate the importance of these and other alternative
issues, in addition to the substantial and excellent coverage of the EMI
issue in the current article, prior to introduction of relaxed or flexible

1. Hahn IH, Schnadower D, Dakin RJ, Nelson LS. Cellular phone
interference as a cause of acute epinephrine poisoning. Ann Emerg Med
2005;46 :298-9.

2. Derbyshire SW, Burgess A. Use of mobile phones in hospitals. BMJ

3. Lee E. Surgeon operated while on phone. South China Morning Post.
(in; Lam S. Call for Re-evaluation of Mobile Phones in Hospitals. Can J
Anaesth. 2002 49 (6):632-633.)

4. Bhattacharya K. Mobile phone and the surgeon - Is there a
controversy?. Indian J Surg 2005;67:53-54

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 October 2006
Richard R Brady
Research Fellow