Boston doctor, Suzanne Koven has increasingly noticed the distracting presence of cell phones in her office when she is talking to patients. She acknowledges it’s a two-way street – the patients’ phones as well as her own can sidetrack the conversation they’re trying to have. She proposes all phones be silenced when she is with patients. The following is a portion of her recent blog on the subject….

A patient and I were discussing a symptom that was very frightening to her – she’d passed out – and potentially indicative of a serious medical problem. Every few seconds a sound emitted from her handbag: ping! ping! And every time her purse pinged, the woman turned her head to peek over at her phone, which lay open in the bag. I found it hard to focus, and I can’t imagine she found it any easier.

Still, I was reluctant to ask the woman to silence her phone – I’ve been reluctant to ask many other patients to do the same.

Why?

For one thing, I was trying to be mindful of the fact that this was her time and should be conducted as much on her terms as possible. Also, it’s hard to begrudge a patient their phone when I’ve got this huge computer monitor on my desk ( and a beeper on my belt and a phone on my wall).

Plus, I know well how hard it is to turn off a phone, even for a little while, when you never know when your kid (your plumber, the school nurse) is trying to reach you urgently.

But the pinging distracted both of us nonetheless.

So I’ll say here what I didn’t say then: please show me those baby, prom and wedding pictures, consult the list of questions you’ve listed digitally, then silence your phone and put it away. I’ll put mine away too. At least there will be two fewer sources of distraction in what’s become an increasingly distracted medical office………bostonglobe.com 2/27/14

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