Sunday, February 10, 2008

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) in healthcare

Where are we regarding electromagnetic interference (EMI) in the healthcare setting?

Healthcare professionals can't survive without mobile devices. Pagers, mobile phones, and now data-transmitting Blackberry-type devices are frequently utilized by physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. Many hospitals now allow the use of most wireless devices and even have Wi-Fi networks.

However, in the Netherlands, researchers found that phones with data-transmitting capabilities could cause some serious EMI in the critical care units:
They found: A total of 61 medical devices in 17 categories (27 different manufacturers) were tested and demonstrated 48 incidents in 26 devices (43%); 16 (33%) were classified as hazardous, 20 (42%) as significant and 12 (25%) as light. The GPRS-1 signal induced the most EMI incidents (41%), the GRPS-2 signal induced fewer (25%) and the UMTS signal induced the least (13%; P < 0.001). The median distance between antenna and medical device for EMI incidents was 3 cm (range 0.1 to 500 cm). One hazardous incident occurred beyond 100 cm (in a ventilator with GRPS-1 signal at 300 cm).

More recently, the attention has turned to the use of iPods in patients who have implanted cardiac devices. An early study found that iPods can cause interference in 50% of patients wearing pacemakers:

A more recent study says there are no interference effects with iPods:

The FDA seems to think that iPods are safe, but we will have to continue to monitor safety issues as manufacturers build Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other communication technologies into the devices.

Want to read about RFID solutions for healthcare?

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