Anyone who has been inside a hospital probably has been cut off from relatives and colleagues because of a common rule: no cellular phones.
But some healthcare facilities are creating wireless networks to let patients, family members, physicians and staff members use their phones.
The concern about the phones, hospital officials say, is that their signals could create electromagnetic interference with sensitive medical devices, such as ventilators or external pacemakers. Opinion is divided; some experts say the risk has been overblown.
Some doctors even say cellphones promote better communication, which reduces medical errors. And people rely more heavily now on their wireless devices to stay connected to work and family.
An increasing number of patients arrive with laptops and other means of communication and are frustrated if they cannot connect with the outside world, said 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 cell phone use.
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