Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RFIDs Cause Hospital Machine Incidents

Via BBC -

Lifesaving equipment in hospitals may be switched off by radio-frequency devices used to track people and machines, Dutch scientists claim.

Radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) are on the rise in healthcare, helping identify patients, and reveal the location of equipment.

The Journal of the American Medical Association study found they could interfere with machines.

But NHS computer specialists said RFIDs could eventually make patients safer.

There are two types of RFID, one which transmits information, and another, "passive", device which can be "read" by a powered machine when it is held nearby.

They are small and cheap enough to be in everyday use in society, in everything from security and travel cards - such as London Transport's Oystercard, to anti-theft devices on goods in shops, and hospitals are starting to become aware of their potential.

At Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, patients heading for the operating theatre wear an RFID wristband, so that even when anaesthetised, their full identity, including a picture, can be downloaded into a PDA held nearby.

The latest research, conducted at Vrije University in Amsterdam, tested the effect of holding both "passive" and powered RFIDs close to 41 medical devices, including ventilators, syringe pumps, dialysis machines and pacemakers.

A total of 123 tests, three on each machine, were carried out, and 34 produced an "incident" in which the RFID appeared to have an effect - 24 of which were deemed either "significant" or "hazardous".

In some tests, RFIDs either switched off or changed the settings on mechanical ventilators, completely stopped the working of syringe pumps, caused external pacemakers to malfunction, and halted dialysis machines.

The device did not have to be held right up to the machine to make this happen - some "hazardous" incidents happened when the RFID was more than 10 inches away.


Shouldn't medical equipment be shielded from interference like this?

Is there no standard for industry/medical equipment?

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