Healthcare News & Insights

Pokemon Go causes problems for hospitals: How to respond

Many advances in mobile technology, such as personal health tracking apps and wearable devices, can positively affect hospitals in terms of improving patient care. But other developments can create hassles. Pokemon Go, a new mobile game that’s currently taking the country by storm, is having an unexpected impact on daily operations for some hospitals. 

In Pokemon GoGettyImages-478161725, players use their smartphones’ cameras and GPS technology to explore the world around them and catch “Pokemon,” which are cute fictional creatures with different appearances and abilities.

The interactive app is based on the wildly popular video game and trading card franchise from Nintendo.

Players on hospital grounds

Walking is a big component of finding new Pokemon, and while the game’s being praised for making children (and adults) more active, Pokemon Go is also creating some sticky situations for hospitals.

Here’s why: Pokemon show up in random locations throughout a geographic area, and hospitals aren’t immune. Since the game’s been released, several hospitals have spotted groups of young people on the premises solely to hunt for Pokemon.

The sheer amount of unauthorized visitors has raised safety concerns about everything from security issues to increased germ exposure that heightens patients’ risk of infections.

According to an article from Mlive.com, Covenant HealthCare in Michigan has specifically designated one of its hospitals a “no-hunting zone” due to teenage players repeatedly entering the facility in search of Pokemon. In Ohio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital sent out an email to staff members telling them to be on the lookout for Pokemon Go players trying to access secured areas of the hospital, per an article from Destructoid.

And as written in a piece from Utah’s Daily Herald, Utah Valley Hospital has seen Pokemon Go players on its grounds because the app directs players to several Pokestops, or areas where they can get items to help them catch Pokemon, located on the hospital’s campus. A hospital representative urged people not to enter the hospital to find these Pokestops.

Another trend your hospital may see: Increased traffic in the emergency department because of injuries. Multiple accidents have already been attributed to Pokemon Go so far, from a Reddit user’s broken leg to a man who drove into a tree while playing the game.

The game’s even infiltrated other hospital departments. According to an article from BuzzFeed, one man found a random Pokemon while his wife was giving birth to their third daughter at the hospital, and he documented the moment with his phone’s camera.

Handling issues

Because smartphones are so common nowadays, you may start seeing many people looking for Pokemon inside your hospital, including authorized visitors.

If they’re connected to your hospital’s Wi-Fi network, all those Pokemon hunters could strain its bandwidth – not to mention the more serious hazards that could arise from inattentive people wandering through hospital hallways, eyes glued to their phones.

With that in mind, it may be smart to issue a general warning about appropriate smartphone use for hospital visitors and patients. It could also be wise to give similar guidance to hospital staff, who may also be caught up in the Pokemon Go craze.

In addition, the app’s already caused some issues with smartphone security and access to saved Google and Gmail accounts, according to an article from ABC News.

Although these security problems have been fixed, there’s always the possibility that others could crop up down the road – which is why it’s important to remind hospital staff to be careful if they use their personal smartphones to access your electronic health records (EHR) system or hospital email accounts.

With Pokemon Go players trying to “catch ‘em all” everywhere, hospitals would be wise to be proactive about establishing boundaries and guidelines for the game (and other mobile apps) on their grounds and networks.

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