Radio Frequency Identification May Be Hazardous

Testing shows that it induces electromagnetic interference in many critical care medical devices

TUESDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Radio frequency identification can induce potentially hazardous electromagnetic interference in critical care medical equipment, according to research published in the June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Remko van der Togt, of VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues used an international test protocol in a non-clinical setting to assess two radio frequency identification systems -- active 125 kHz and passive 868 MHz -- in the proximity of 41 medical devices.

After conducting 123 tests, the researchers found that radio frequency identification induced 34 incidents of electromagnetic interference, including 22 that were classified as potentially hazardous. They also found that the passive signal induced a higher number of incidents than the active signal (26 versus 8) and that the passive signal induced electromagnetic interference in 26 medical devices, including eight that were also affected by the active signal.

"From the particular case of radio frequency identification and electromagnetic interference, therefore, emerge two important lessons," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "First, design in isolation is risky; even the most seductive technology will interact in the tightly coupled health care world in ways physicians and other members of the health care team had better understand, or they and their patients may pay a dear price. Second, no matter how good the design, in the end the battle for high safety and reliability in health care is never won."

Some funding for the research was provided by Oracle and Intel.

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