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Fwd: 'Hospital risk' from radio tags
From: n3td3v <xploitable () gmail com>
Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2008 18:44:16 +0100

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: security news <malformed () gmail com>
Date: Sun, Jun 29, 2008 at 6:39 PM
Subject: 'Hospital risk' from radio tags
To: n3td3v () googlegroups com


Lifesaving equipment in hospitals may be switched off by
radio-frequency devices used to track people and machines, Dutch
scientists claim.

Radio frequency identification devices (RFIDs) are on the rise in
healthcare, helping identify patients, and reveal the location of
equipment.

The Journal of the American Medical Association study found they could
interfere with machines.

But NHS computer specialists said RFIDs could eventually make patients
safer.

There are two types of RFID, one which transmits information, and
another, "passive", device which can be "read" by a powered machine
when it is held nearby.

They are small and cheap enough to be in everyday use in society, in
everything from security and travel cards - such as London Transport's
Oystercard, to anti-theft devices on goods in shops, and hospitals are
starting to become aware of their potential.

At Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, patients heading for the
operating theatre wear an RFID wristband, so that even when
anaesthetised, their full identity, including a picture, can be
downloaded into a PDA held nearby.

Turned off

The latest research, conducted at Vrije University in Amsterdam,
tested the effect of holding both "passive" and powered RFID systems
close to 41 medical devices, including ventilators, syringe pumps,
dialysis machines and pacemakers.

A total of 123 tests, three on each machine, were carried out, and 34
produced an "incident" in which the RFID appeared to have an effect -
24 of which were deemed either "significant" or "hazardous".

In some tests, RFIDs either switched off or changed the settings on
mechanical ventilators, completely stopped the working of syringe
pumps, caused external pacemakers to malfunction, and halted dialysis
machines.

The device did not have to be held right up to the machine to make
this happen - some "hazardous" incidents happened when the RFID was
more than 10 inches away.

Patient safety

Dr Donald Berwick, from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: "Design in isolation is risky - even
the most seductive technology will interact in the tightly-coupled
healthcare world in ways physicians and other members of the
healthcare team had better understand, or they and their patients may
pay a dear price."

A spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health, which manages various IT
projects across the health service, said that RFIDs had the potential
to deliver big improvements in patient safety, reducing mistakes
caused by the wrong identification of patients.

She said: "Any product such as this which is for use in a healthcare
setting has to meet a standard which means it is very unlikely to
interfere with medical equipment.

"This risk is more likely to come from RFID tags from other sources -
such as a travel card, a tag on clothing, or on another retail item."

A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory
Agency said that, as for mobile phone use, individual Trusts needed to
make risk assessments about the use of RFIDs.

He said: "Despite much debate in the literature on the subject of
electromagnetic interference (EMI) of medical devices by mobile
telephones and other sources of radiofrequency transmission, the MHRA
has received very few reports of adverse events caused by this problem
over the last seven years or so.

"Of those incidents reported, only a very small number have been
proven to be as a direct result of EMI."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7471008.stm
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