Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Use of mobile phones in hospitals

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

Rapid Response:

Mobile phones do not exist. (Yet).-Oct 2006

Dosing errors caused by cell phones remain difficult to detect, and
so to report. The phone is attached to the ubiquitous cell phone user, and
by this association, overstated as being “mobile”. “Where is the phone
right now?” That is the question asked when a dosing error occurs. But the
question can never be answered. So the focus goes to the dosing device.
Doctors, roving in teams from ward to ward as they do, are by far the most
mobile of cell phone users in hospitals, yet their mobility is inversely
proportional to their observing of infusion rates as this is mainly a
nursing responsibility.

Serious overdoses caused by cell phones have indeed been reported[1],
were mentioned in rapid responses last year (2005) on the cell phone issue
in this journal[2], but not in the earlier 2003 article and rapid
responses[3]. So the situation in terms of adverse events, has
deteriorated with time.

At the other end of the dosing spectrum, I have witnessed an IMED
intravenous infusion pump connected to a patient indicating a volume of 37
mls given, when drip chamber, burette, and other observations indicated
not one single drop had been delivered. A relatively harmless normal
saline infusion on that occasion, but I regularly administer potent drugs
via the same and such similar devices.

Electronic infusion devices proliferate in hospitals, so issues with
cell phones are by no means restricted to “critical” areas as suggested in
the present article[4]. What can one say when a car crash caused by cell
phone use, finds the crash victim an inpatient, and then again a victim of
dosing error caused by in hospital cell phone use? Who can one call?

[1] Hahn IH, Schnadower D, Dakin RJ, Nelson LS. Cellular phone
interference as a cause of acute epinephrine poisoning. Ann Emerg Med.
2005 Sep;46(3):298-9.

[2] Godlee F. Let's call it cardiac impairment [Editor's Choice]. BMJ
2005;331:463. (20-27 August.)

[3] Myerson SG, Mitchell AR. Mobile phones in hospitals. BMJ. 2003
Mar 1;326(7387):460-1.

[4] Derbyshire SW, Burgess A. Use of mobile phones in hospitals.
BMJ. 2006 Oct 14;333(7572):767-8.

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 October 2006
Phillip J. Colquitt
Independent Comment