Cell Phones in the Exam Room: Yes? No? It Depends?

March 17, 2014

Do you ask patients to turn off the sound on their phones during an office visit? Share your opinion in a quick poll and tell us if you have a policy.

“Distracted-doctoring” is the label widely attached to the activity behind the exam room door that now includes clinician, patient, and laptop computer. But more often than not there are other wireless electronic devices in the room, the most common being a smart phone of some variety-and perhaps more than one.

A recent column by internal medicine physician and Boston Globe columnist Suzanne Koven introduces a new term that she feels deserves equal time in the larger conversation about the role of computers in the physician-patient relationship-“distracted patient-ing.”

What are screens, alerts, buzzing, and other sounds emitted by modern technology doing to the attentiveness of both clinician and patient? Dr Koven shares an experience with a woman who came to see her because she had fainted and was frightened about the implications. The woman’s purse emitted a distracting “ping! ping!” every few seconds and each time the patient turned to look at her smart phone screen, visible to her in the bag. Dr Koven had trouble focusing; the patient may have also.

But, Dr Koven says she “was a little reluctant to ask the woman to silence her phone" and had held back with many other patients as well. You can read the rest of Dr Koven’s column here.

But first, tell us what you think by voting for one of the choices below, and then click the link leave a comment. Does your office have a policy? We will gather your thoughts and report the results back to you. Thank you!

Should patients be asked to turn off the sound on their phones while in the exam room?