Signs in waiting rooms asking patients to turn off or silence their cell phones often are ineffective, but unless doctors handle ringing phones with tact, some patients may change doctors, practice management experts say. "You don't want to be too abrupt," health care management consultant Rosemarie Nelson said. "Everyone can create their own little shtick," she said. "I suggest: 'Are you ready for me, or do we need to reschedule?'"

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