According to a survey by CHIME, more hospitals are reducing restrictions on cell phones.

Twenty-three percent of the 185 survey respondents reported their organization has lifted all restrictions on mobile phone use, up 5.5% from a similar survey conducted by the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based organization in 2004. Only 11 respondents, or 6%, indicated that cell phone use is entirely
prohibited at their hospitals.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported mobile phone use is restricted only in certain areas, such as the emergency department or intensive care unit. And 39% indicated their organization has or will install technology to enhance cell phone signals.

Respondents, however, also reported that some problems have arisen as a result of increased use of mobile phones in their hospitals. For example, some say privacy and noise pollution concerns are compelling them to continue some mobile phone restrictions. Further, some respondents indicated their organization has specific bans on camera phones in patient areas.

As I noted on the Biomed Listserv this week, RF interference is a fact of life and cell phones are but one contributor. Regarding RF interference risk, cell phone's will never be proven to be perfectly safe - but then neither will hair dryers, florescent light ballasts, microwaves ovens, and elevator motors. The key is risk management.

Sadly there's no link to the actual report on CHIME's web site. (You'd think they could have found a corporate sponsor for the study, and then published it in support of their advocacy for effective use of IT in health care and as a service to the industry - that is why CHIME exists, isn't it?)