July 3, 2008

Cell Phones and the Doctor’s Office

Filed under: Personal Blog, Software Blog — marcstober @ 2:01 am

Why is it that someone else talking on a cell phone in public is impolite, and when you’re the one talking on a cell phone, it’s an important call? I find it curious that people will pass judgment on someone without knowing the caller’s situation.

Recently I went to an urgent care appointment at a very large group medical practice. I was irritated by signs in the waiting room telling you to turn off your phone when you enter the building. There are many legitimate reasons to be on the phone in the waiting room:

  • Your spouse dropped you off at the front door since your foot was hurt, and you need to tell him where to find you once he parks the car.
  • You need to tell a babysitter that your appointment is running late.
  • To tell your boss a family emergency has come up, you’re at the doctor, and you’ll miss that meeting it took two months to set up.
  • You need support after a bad diagnosis. (Or, you got a good result and need to tell your mom to stop worrying.)

Whatever the reason, it’s more important to you than anything going on in the waiting room. Yes, you should respect other people waiting, but is being considerate to strangers really more important than showing respect to people you know by keeping them informed as you deal with a medical issue?

(Maybe this is “sign inflation”–they don’t care if everyone turns off their cell phones, so long as it keeps the volume down, and they can point to the sign if they have to tell someone to be quiet. Not my idea of compassionate care, though.)

There’s an idea that medicine is such a serious matter it must be more important than whatever you’re talking about; some hospitals have banned cell phone use for fear of radio interference with medical equipment. Today, major hospitals use mobile phones, and even WiFi, for communication among doctors and nurses, and recognize that patients and families need to keep in touch. As with anything, the technology isn’t the problem, it’s a question of how you use it.