Expanding mobile use in hospitals could prove problematic, warns ADC

As Government eases hospital phone use restrictions, ADC, a communications and networking specialist, stateed that it will not be as easy as taking down the ‘No mobile phones allowed’ signs.

The Department of Health has announced that NHS Trusts should relax restrictions on the use of mobile phones in hospitals in England, contradicting previous guidelines imposing a blanket ban anywhere within buildings in case of interference with sensitive equipment.

The move comes after concerns were raised over the premium rates charged by providers of bedside phones. Other factors taken into consideration included how issuing doctors with phones can improve communication and care, and how important mobile phones are for providing a lifeline to friends, family and the outside world.

While ADC applauds this move as a step in the right direction, it is concerned that many people will experience difficulty using their phones within the hospital buildings as there is often inadequate coverage. John Spindler, VP at ADC, argued that while it may be expected that older hospitals would have a poor mobile signal, newer buildings also suffer from this problem.

“Arguments for this liberalisation of policy have been around for over five years now, but unfortunately the planners of new hospitals have failed to act with foresight,” Spindler stated. “Despite this lack of preparation there is no reason why facilities can’t be modified to provide adequate coverage in the required areas. Service can be greatly improved with the use of a wireless distributed antenna system (DAS). A DAS main hub and expansion hubs can be installed with a minimal amount of disturbance and discreet remote antennas can be fixed in existing wall cavities and utility areas to provide signal for both patients and doctors exactly where service is needed. Although this process is not too difficult, in future it would be much easier if planners considered coverage in hospitals during the design stage to include the wireless infrastructure.”

Dr Vivienne Nathanson of the British Medical Association agreed with this point, adding that poor coverage could risk the quality of patient care if mobile communication between healthcare workers was adversely affected, stating: “It is important that the design and construction of any future newly-built or rebuilt hospitals permit good mobile phone reception.”

Spindler continued: “Carriers also need to take responsibility for this problem. After spending millions on outdoor networks they are still unable to provide consistent coverage in most buildings. If this problem is neglected, frustrated patients and relatives that are unable to contact one another are sure to consider switching their provider, and at this time of economic uncertainty, increased churn is something that carriers most definitely want to avoid.”

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