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Are Smartphones A Hazard In The Doctor’s Office?

Monday, December 7th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Android, iOS, Smartphones

One of our readers expressed concern over people using smartphones in medical waiting rooms. He writes: Every time I see a waiting room full of self-absorbed twits tweeting, texting and otherwise pecking away I wish I had the power to generate an EMP in the immediate area, just to see the look on their vacuous faces. I can touch upon why I don’t like people having Smart Phones on in medical waiting rooms.

(1) They have cameras. And microphones.

(2) They may interfere with medical devices.

 (3) They can be used to make notes and send texts about who’s there and what they are there for.

In non-medical waiting areas or in lines, the phones are more of a hazard for the owners than for anyone else. Just letting thieves know you have a phone turns you into a target. I am writing this from near Chicago, which has had a particularly nasty string of very violent iPhone thefts on Public Transportation platforms.”

Smartphone Data Usage

I’d like to address your most serious concern first: Smartphones interfering with medical devices. While in the past phones interfering with medical devices were an issue, with modern phones and modern devices, this isn’t really a concern. You’ll notice that hospitals no longer have signs forbidding the use of phones on the premises. If there were an issue with phones interfering with medical devices, there would be signs posted in the office.

You’re right that phones have cameras and microphones, though it is usually pretty obvious when someone is taking a photo or video with a smartphone. They need to get the lens in the right place. But if someone is determined to record people in waiting rooms, they certainly don’t need a smartphone to do it. There are many small and inexpensive hidden camera devices and recorders that can do that job.

You certainly don’t need a phone or a camera to make note of what you see in a doctor’s office. On the plus side, the phone can be a valuable tool at the doctor’s. You could record instructions or make notes about treatment. There are also many apps that allow you to share things like blood sugar levels and blood pressure with your physician.

As for making users a target for thieves, I suppose you could also say that having a car or a wallet or a purse, especially a nice one, makes you a target for thieves.  Stolen smartphones are becoming increasingly useless to thieves due to technology that can remotely shut them down if they’re stolen and that can also be used to locate them in the hands of the crooks.


I will agree that a world where folks have constant access to cameras and also to the Internet, is a less private world. And that people often use their phones to avoid interacting with other people. But I don’t think looking at the Internet in a waiting room or playing a game is any more vacuous that reading a four-year-old magazine.

But, to each his own.

~ Cynthia


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14 Responses to “Are Smartphones A Hazard In The Doctor’s Office?”

  1. Jill Bennett says:

    Well said Cynthia – I am in Australia and there has never been a problem with me using my iPhone in the Doctor’s waiting room, although I always turn the sound off so as not to bother other people.

  2. Dave says:

    I have no problem with people using their phones in a public place SILENTLY! It is the self obsessed prats that show off that piss me off!

    Beeping text is infuriating!!!

  3. Carolyn says:

    Silently is the key word. People are soooo rude. The sound is loud enough for the entire room to hear. Also, people will not put their phones down when they are holding up a line of people. They have to finish that text, or keep talking; while everyone in line is waiting.

  4. Sarah Mingus says:

    Well said. Thank you.

  5. George Punches says:

    I am a retiree that also is a former health professional. I have an iPhone with all types of Health related apps. My doctor and local hospital/health care system is totally computerized with access to my own portal into my personal health records. I love it. I can see my lab results, pharmacy records, and what other doctors have written back and forth to my primary physician.
    Much of this is due to ObamaCare, like it or not it’s required. People in waiting rooms are the least of my worries. I read my newspapers, magazines and such on my smartphone. It keeps me up to date on a schedule of waiting rooms and just waiting for the next thing.
    I like the updating that smartphones allow. It keeps me up to date with children and grandchildren. 20 years ago we wouldn’t have the personal contacts we have now.

  6. Valerie Campbell says:

    I laughed at this as many years ago ( I’m 75) someone complained in a magazine about people reading books in the doctors office and why could people not talk to each other. My comment then was that I was not in the waiting room to socialize. So I don’t pay attention to those on iphones etc as they can socialize quietly and I can still read my real book. To me it is such an improvement over having to listen to someone’s boring chatter especially if it is about their ailments.

  7. Robert F. (Andy) Anderson says:

    When I am in a public place, Doctor’s Office, ETC, I use my phone’s external speaker and a set of ear phones to listen to and play games, check E-mail, check Face Book, ETC. I have never had any one complain, I on the other hand have asked someone talking on their phone and talking loud to please step outside to continue their conversation. I also remind them to make sure and give their names and where they will be to the people at the desk. Other than that, if the room doesn’t have a turn off your phone sign on the wall, I do not say anything to another person and I continue to use mine.

  8. CT CHARLIE says:

    I am an 84-year old IBM retiree. I have had a PC in my home since the first IBM PC came out. I have recently purchased a smartphone. Problem is that I am not smart enough yet to know how to use it.

    I would recommend that you take a few introductory electronics courses at your local library just to get familiar with them. You might find that they are not so challingly and who knows you might get one yourself.

  9. Helen Travis says:

    A;though Iphones/smartphones are good these days and I do not object to their use in doctor’s office, I DO OBJECT to phone calls made/received and their talking very loud. It is not necessary to be sooo loud.

  10. Mark Roberts says:

    Going back few years on back & forth train-rides to minority I had rare occasions of others would argue up over my shoulder at me ‘in-front-of- everyone’ if I read paperback/magazines at ‘frightening-speeds’ to onlookers made an ever growing conscious embarrassment as too distracting for me + before electronic devices became more avail, it was not long ago going into any nightclub these devices being enforced out of hand as a security threat for potential bomb hazards! Nowadays its “ah” so nice-&-easy-Japan-easy taking a leisurely stroll down from this memorial-lane as nowadays being so-happy-go-lucky with these acceptable fitting mob of self-absorbed-reading-rats going into any nightclub/train to nearly any old place with this higher privilege ‘reading-at-unlimited-speeds’ as fast as I want to while been hidden away from any witnesses eyes of beholder just leisurely scrolling down the screen to where nobody would even know I’m even reading! As I could be doing anything from texting/noting/looking for… OR even “reading” So I’m always reading happily without any care in the world from anyone threatening claims against my indecent acts of speed-reading! So now I’m a happy-chappy > it’s all good agreeing with Cynthia :)

  11. Randal says:

    Bravo, Cynthia. I spend time playing games with my friends while I wait for the doctor. My phone is much easier to carry around than a book, which is what I carried before (and no, to the author of the question, I didn’t stop reading, just stopped lugging the book with me everywhere that I went). You’re right about the magazines… and the odds of me finding one that interests me are really pretty low. The people that always puzzle me (although I won’t insult them as the question asker chose to us) are the people that will just sit there staring off into space. Well, perhaps they’re working on a cure to cancer.


  12. Mark says:

    WOW! This unnamed paranoid reader is obviously out of touch with not only newer technology but also out of touch with reality. I can see why he makes reference to the doctors waiting room as I suspect he spends many hours there. I also suspect the doctor is a psychiatrist.

  13. Frank Vanacore says:

    At 77, I go to quite a few doctors offices. Each and every one has a sign on the wall “Turn cell phones off”. Does it do any good, no.

  14. Beatrice T. Ray says:

    For me, using either my smartphone or tablet at the doctor’s office keeps me from getting uptight if the doctor is late. I have the option to read the e-book that I have started, catch up on my e-mails, check what is going on in the world, or simply to play solitaire, Sudoku, or Words with Friends. I love having so many options to utilize my time when I am waiting. It allows me to tell the doctor that it really is no problem that he/she is running late rather than complaining. :)

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