MUHC lifts restrictions on cell phone use in hospitals

Launch of free public WiFi across MUHC hospitals timed with new policy


The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has become the first hospital in Quebec to allow patients and visitors to use their cell phones within the institution. The move follows the successful completion of a pilot project that assessed the use of cell phones in certain areas of the MUHC. Although some restrictions will still apply, cell phones will be permitted in most waiting areas, clinics and patient rooms throughout the six sites of the MUHC. The new policy will allow patients greater freedom to keep in touch with family members and friends, whist maintaining patient safety and privacy. 

For years, hospitals in Canada and around the world have restricted the use of cell phones within their walls because of concerns over interference with hospital equipment, and the need to ensure a peaceful and calming environment for patients. According to recent studies however, modern cell phones are safe to use near virtually all hospital equipment. 

“These days, cell phone use in hospitals is mostly a matter of respecting others,” says Sylvie Beausoleil, Security Governance Director at the MUHC. “Around three quarters of Canadians own a cell phone, and for many they are vital tools for keeping in touch with friends and family members, as well as storage devices for information like medical contacts and appointments. A complete ban has become unnecessary, as well as unrealistic to enforce.”

This summer, the MUHC launched a pilot project, which monitored the affects of cell phone use in certain areas of the Montreal General Hospital. “We asked people to follow a few simple rules,” says Beausoleil. “To use their cell phones respectfully by setting them to vibrate instead of ring, talking quietly, keeping calls brief, and not using the camera function without permission.”

The results of the pilot were overwhelmingly successful. “We will continue to restrict cell phone use in areas that have particularly sick patients, or equipment that may be sensitive to cell phone use, but in all other areas restrictions have now been lifted,” says Beausoleil. New signs indicating where cell phones are now allowed and where they remain prohibited, have been placed in all six MUHC hospitals, which includes the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, The Montreal Children’s Hospital, The Montreal Neurological Hospital, The Montreal Chest Institute and Lachine Hospital. 

The MUHC is also progressively launching a free public WiFi network that will help patients and their families and friends stay in touch while in the hospital. “We have worked diligently to determine the best possible solution for patients and staff with respect to the use of mobile devices. The new policy was reached through an informed decision-making process and through numerous tests with medical equipment” says Beausoleil.