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Does RFID Interfere With Medical Devices?

Posted By RFID Journal, 07.02.2012
I need to know more about the different types of interference that an RFID system can produce with regard to some medical equipment (pacemakers, tomography machines, electrocardiograph machines, electroencephalograph machines and so forth). Can you please provide some information?

—Diego

———
Diego,

In 2008, a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) warned that radio frequency identification could possibly disrupt the operation of defibrillators and other medical equipment, and occasionally induce "potentially hazardous incidents in medical devices" (see Researchers Warn RFID May Disrupt Medical Equipment, Dutch RFID Interference Study Is a Worst-Case Test and A Sobering Warning on RFID in Hospitals).

Experts not involved in the study have noted that no injuries related to electromagnetic interference (EMI) have been reported in an actual clinical setting, but have recommended that before deploying an RFID system, a hospital should first test the technology in order to determine if it has any effects on that facility's medical devices.

Later that year, a different study on the effects of passive RFID systems on medical equipment did not discover any problems involving EMI (see New RFID Study Finds No Interference With Medical Devices). The clinical study was conducted at Community North Hospital, in Indianapolis, by researchers at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and by RFID consulting and systems integration firm BlueBean, based in Carmel, Ind. BlueBean initiated the study because there had been a scarcity of research about EMI and radio frequency identification, and the company hoped to be able to provide definitive answers to customers while building out an RFID practice for the health-care market.

The Wireless Internet for the Mobile Enterprise Consortium (WINMEC), at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) offers services by which it tests how an RFID system's electromagnetic radiation affects the operation of infusion pumps, pacemakers and other medical equipment (see UCLA Group Offers Interference-Testing Service for Medical Devices). I have not heard of any specific instance of interference within a hospital, but you might reach out to WINMEC to find out if they have discovered any problems in the course of their testing.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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