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Wireless Device Use and Patient Monitoring Equipment in Any Healthcare Delivery Setting: A Review of Safety and Guidelines

Last updated: August 18, 2016
Project Number: RC0802-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report

Question

  1. What is the evidence that wireless devices interfere with medical equipment in any healthcare delivery setting?
  2. What is the evidence for the safe use of wireless devices when in the vicinity of medical equipment in any healthcare delivery setting?
  3. What are the evidenced-based guidelines for the use of wireless devices in any healthcare delivery setting?

Key Message

One systematic review2 and one guideline4 reported that although rare, wireless communication devices can cause electromagnetic interference (EMI) which can affect the functioning of a wide variety of medical electrical equipment. The guideline4 recommends a separation distance of one meter between wireless communication devices and medical electrical equipment to prevent interruptions caused by EMI. However, hospitals can set a lower separation distance if they confirmed safety based on their own test results, manufacturer instructions for specific medical equipment, and other sources. To maintain a favorable electromagnetic compatibility environment (EMC), hospitals were advised to assign an EMC manager to work in collaboration with other departments to address EMC issues. The guideline4 recommends against the use of mobile handsets in areas such as operation rooms, intensive care units (ICUs), laboratories, treatment rooms, etc., which normally have sensitive medical equipment; and against placing a wireless communication device on a medical electrical equipment as it may greatly interfere with the operation of the equipment.