New guidelines ease restrictions on cellphone use at hospitals

Kyodo

A council made up mainly of representatives of the government and telecom carriers on Tuesday released new guidelines that ease regulations on mobile phone use in hospitals and clinics.

Though cellphones are still banned from operating rooms and laboratories, the new guidelines permit their use in waiting rooms and patients’ private rooms.

While nonbinding, the new guidelines reflect improved functionality of cellphones and medical equipment. But medical institutions are still free to enforce their own rules.

According to the new guidelines, cellphones should be switched off in operating rooms, laboratories and intensive care units, where there is a greater risk of affecting medical equipment.

While no calls are allowed in examination rooms it is now OK to receive emails, under the guidelines. Phones can be used in waiting rooms, patients’ private rooms and dining rooms but only if they aren’t crowded.

The guidelines were reviewed for the first time in 17 years because recently developed medical equipment has become less susceptible to interference from cellphones.

In January 2013, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released a guideline that eased regulations on the distance that must be maintained between pacemakers and cellphones.

The transport ministry has also decided to ease some regulations on the use of cellphones and other electronic devices in aircraft starting in September.