Inhospitable Hospitals

7:30 AM –- Why can't hospitals be more like car dealerships?

From The Philter's Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For file, VOIP guru Jeff Pulver ponders the preceding thought as he writes about having recently spent a big chunk of time in a hospital waiting room with –- horror! -- no toys.

From the Pulver blog:

I spent most of the day disconnected -- my Blackberry had no reception on T-Mobile and I struck out trying to get Internet access using my Verizon EvDO subscription. Had my T-Mobile cell phone actually had service, I would not have been able to place any calls due to the hospital's policy of "no cell phones." (I wonder if that would have included a VoIP-enabled PDA?) I bear witness to the fact that this policy was actively enforced while I was there. And while I did discover a few hospital Wi-Fi networks, they were all secure and the hospital didn't offer any Wi-Fi hotspots for their guests.

Is it just me or does it take a real piece of work to gripe about the lack of digital amenities in a hospital waiting room? What a nob.

Was it too inconvenient to step outside to make a cell phone call? He couldn't let the email thing go for a few hours and watch some filthy soaps like the proletariat?

Look, I've spent my fair share of time in waiting rooms in the past couple of years and I've come away with a different point of view. I'm glad these places are a little disconnected and quiet. Emotions are always running high and it seems like you're never more than a few minutes away from watching someone pace the floor and ponder some weighty, life-altering decision.

The waiting rooms I've been in are comfortable and quiet and they really don't need much in the way of digital adornment. Why does everything have to be a friggin' amusement park for some people? The last thing hospital waiting rooms need, in my opinion, is a bunch of Silicon Valley, NPR listener-types hogging all the wall sockets and filling the air with enough radio interference from all their digital doodads to send the MRI machine down the hall into orbit. Give me a working coffee pot, a payphone, and one year (any year, really) of Sporting News back issues and I'll manage.

I'm hoping to make a bigger point here beyond just picking nits with Pulver: Sometimes the urge to turn every square inch of the Earth into the sitting area at Starbuck's isn't a good thing. Sometimes it's okay to be a out of WiFi range, out of cell range, and a few yards away from 4,000-calorie snacks.

I disagree with Pulver: The lobby of a BMW dealership is nice if you're shopping for a good car, but not if you're waiting to hear if a friend's or loved one's life is running out of road.

— Phil Harvey, Medical Editor, Light Reading

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Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 3:49:05 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals I think there should also be better established rules for Blackberry etiquette. Examples:

So, you are in a really boring corporate meeting and got some juicy gossip on the Blackberry. This is fine.

BUT, you go out with your friends to a bar to have friends, but spend half your time in the corner pawing your Blackberry. CHEESEY. get a life.

The worst is the new breed of Blackberry ADD types who can't even have a conversation with you without looking at their Blackberry every 10 nanoseconds. Like what are they looking for? "ATTENTION BOB -- YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE. GO HOME QUICK". I don't get it.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:49:05 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals
I have found all kinds of ettiquette has gone away. If I have someone in my office, they are more important than anybody on the phone. The same would be said for anybody that I am talking to versus an e-mail arriving on my Blackberry. Crackberry folks, it is possible to turn off the alert that buzzes you every time an e-mail arrives.

There are, of course, exceptions and I try to let those I am talking to know ahead of time (If Phil Harvey calls, I will need to take that - okay I would not actually ever say that).

opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:49:04 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals Having once waited in a Hospital Emergency room for over 8 hours, I agree with Pulver. This isn't a lunch with friends. It is often a serious, drop everything, long term disruption of your life.

Are your kids waiting to be picked up at school while you rush to the hospital because your wife had a car accident? This is the one time in your life when you need to be supremely organized and connected.

For the record, Sutter Davis hospital in Davis, California has free WiFi throughout the hospital. It CAN be done.
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:49:04 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals forgot to mention one other place that has it right:

the byron nelson golf tournament. they don't allow digital devices of any kind. there's no wifi. there's just beer, golf, and sunshine. god bless 'em.

Michael Harris 12/5/2012 | 3:49:03 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals I have found all kinds of ettiquette has gone away. If I have someone in my office, they are more important than anybody on the phone. The same would be said for anybody that I am talking to versus an e-mail arriving on my Blackberry.

Double Amen. A while back, I was invited with a small group of analysts to interview Cisco's John Chambers. What impressed me about the guy was that when meeting with him, you had 100% of his focus and attention. No cell phone ringing, no checking the Blackberry. He scheduled the time with you and that was all he was doing. Period. Perhaps a good role model for the overachiever crowd?

The typical use of Blackberry devices these days is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's sad. Get a life people!

sfwriter 12/5/2012 | 3:49:02 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals I agree with you that John Chambers' ability to focus is admirable. But it should be noted that he's dyslexic and doesn't like to use e-mail.
opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 3:49:01 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals Are you calling me names? All right, the gloves are off.

If you are single and have no family, then you can probably stop whatever you are doing at a moments notice and go stand somewhere for hours and there is no impact on anybody or anything. For you, the only excuse for owning a fancy phone is to play games and to chat with similarly useless friends.

If you have a family, and there is an emergency, and you end up in the hospital, then:
o You need to find someone to watch your kids.
Maybe you think you can leave your two year old at home all day by herself!
o If it is a long term emergency, then you need to find someone to take the kids to school the next day, and to watch them.
o Yes, you could leave the hospital to make these phone calls, but then you might miss the doctor who said he would be out any moment to tell you the status of your unconscious wife.

Yes, I have been in this situation! Do you know how many phone calls it takes to try to find someone to watch your kids at one in the morning? Try to do this without a cell phone.

On second thought, forget it. I don't want to interrupt you from playing your hand-held video games. Of course, that is the only purpose for handheld electronics--at least maybe for a lonely marsupial.

whyiswhy 12/5/2012 | 3:48:59 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals In the pre-connected era, we had Hospital waiting rooms, emergencies, and children, and well, all that.

We managed to drive cars, go shopping, to the movies, and attend church and meetings. All without a cell phone (gasp, horror!) or a laptop or a Blackberry or a pager.

And life got done.

There were quiet waiting rooms; OK a few sobs here and there, a few hushed whispers, a TV on low volume (maybe).

No custom tune-tone blaring, or someone shouting into their handset one way. There wasn't some buzzing box doing a disco dance on the table every two minutes with a text message.

And people actually paid attention in meetings, or at least tried to look like it. Even in church.

And you could go into the restroom and not see someone on the phone while standing at the urinal.

And there was no noise of keystrokes; pencils and pens worked amazingly well, and quietly. Notebooks opened without emitting a start-up jingle.

And it was actually quiet in the library.

Just say no:

Ditched the Blackberry about two years ago. Switched to a disconnected Palm and a paper notebook. Wired phone and computer on the desk.

I now find I can get my work done. Stress level way down.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 3:48:58 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals
Add to your list libraries, churches (well places of worship), national monuments, movie theaters and basically any place where respect and talking softly would be the norm.

I think the bane of civilization will be the day they allow cell phone use during airplane flights. I wonder how many will die to plastic knife attacks.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:48:58 AM
re: Inhospitable Hospitals Follow up question for the group:

What other mostly unconnected places besides hospitals and the Byron Nelson, should stay cell free and WiFi dead zones?

Off the top of my head, museums, funeral homes, and any restaurant that doesn't have a drive-thru window.

Any other suggestions?

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