Can personal devices interfere with hospital care?

Thousands of patients die each year in hospitals across North America due to medical errors that could be prevented were doctors and nurses provided with instant access to patient records via wireless technology. Cue the catch-22: the electromagnetic radiation caused by those very devices can interfere with electronic medical equipment and thus lead to serious clinical consequences for patients.

Luckily, that could soon change thanks to new research from Concordia University that helps define a clear rule of thumb for how close health-care workers with their Wi-Fi devices can be to electronic medical equipment.

In a study researchers from the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science assessed the risk that a medical device will malfunction when radio waves that emanate from portable devices like tablet computers are present in a hospital room.

Hospitals often specify that staff members carrying wireless transmitters not approach sensitive electronic medical devices any closer than a designated minimum separation distance (MSD).