A Dutch study published in the June 25 issue of JAMA assessed the effects of electromagnetic interference (EMI) from RFID (radio frequency identification) devices on hospital equipment. The authors report that they have discovered that critical care gadgets can undergo major malfunctions thanks to EMI.
Here’s the nugget from the American Medical Association press release:
Remko van der Togt, M.Sc., of Vrije University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a study in a controlled, non-clinical setting to assess and classify incidents of electromagnetic interference by RFID on critical care equipment. The tests were performed in a one-bed patient room in an intensive care unit (ICU) and with no patients present. Electromagnetic interference by two RFID systems (active [with batteries and ability to transmit information] and passive [without batteries, information retrieved by RFID reader] was assessed in the proximity of 41 medical devices (in 17 categories, 22 different manufacturers). The devices included items such as external pacemakers, mechanical ventilators, infusion/syringe pumps, dialysis devices, defibrillators, monitors and anesthesia devices. Incidents of EMI were classified according to a critical care adverse events scale as hazardous, significant, or light.
All 41 medical devices were submitted to 3 EMI tests resulting in 123 EMI tests. A total of 34 EMI incidents were found; 22 were classified as hazardous, 2 as significant, and 10 as light. The passive signal induced a higher number of incidents (26 in 41 EMI tests; 63 percent), and hazardous incidents (17), compared with the active signal.
Hazardous incidents included: total switch-off and change in set ventilation rate of mechanical ventilators; complete stoppage of sringe pumps; malfunction of external pacemakers; complete stoppage of renal replacement devices, and interference in the atrial and ventricular electrogram curve read by the pacemaker programmer.
The median (midpoint) distance between reader and device at which all types of incidents occurred was 11.8 inches. Hazardous incidents occurred at a median distance of 9.8 inches.
Abstract: Electromagnetic Interference From Radio Frequency Identification Inducing Potentially Hazardous Incidents in Critical Care Medical Equipment JAMA. 2008;299(24):2884-2890.