RFIDs in hospital settings may interfere with medical devices
Study reveals that RFIDs may cause electromagnetic interference. Source: Business Controls  
In a controlled nonclinical setting, radio frequency identification (RFID) induced potentially hazardous incidents in medical devices, according to a study in the June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Remko van der Togt, MSc, from the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amersterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues undertook the study to assess and classify incidents of electromagnetic interference (EMI) by RFID on critical care equipment.

The authors attributed the “absence of studies on the safety of RFID may be explained by the relative novelty of this autoidentification technology in healthcare, although many hospitals have already implemented RFID.”

Without a patient being connected, the researchers assessed EMI by two RFID systems (active 125 kHz and passive 868 MHz) under controlled conditions during May 2006, in the proximity of 41 medical devices (in 17 categories, 22 different manufacturers) at the Academic Medical Centre. The investigators classified incidents of EMI according to a critical care adverse events scale as hazardous, significant or light.

In 123 EMI tests (three per medical device), van der Togt and colleages found that RFID induced 34 EMI incidents: 22 were classified as hazardous, two as significant and 10 as light. The passive 868-MHz RFID signal induced a higher number of incidents (26 incidents in 41 EMI tests; 63 percent) compared with the active 125-kHz RFID signal (eight incidents in 41 EMI tests; 20 percent); difference 44 percent, according to the authors.
The researchers found that the passive 868-MHz RFID signal induced EMI in 26 medical devices, including eight that were also affected by the active 125-kHz RFID signal (26 in 41 devices; 63 percent). The median distance between the RFID reader and the medical device in all EMI incidents was 30 cm.

The authors noted that “the economic benefits of optimal healthcare logistics, including a supply chain of RFID-tagged disposables or pharmaceuticals, could face barriers in the critical care environment.” They added that the “intensity of electronic life-supporting medical devices in this area requires careful management of the introduction of new wireless communications such as RFID.”

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the implementation of RFID in the critical care environment should require on-site EMI tests and updates of international standards.

Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Academic Medical Centre, Capgemini, Geodan, Oracle and Intel funded the study.