24 June 2008—The use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems in hospitals may not be entirely safe, new research suggests. According to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association , RFID tags and the devices they communicate with can disrupt the performance of medical equipment, including pacemakers and dialysis machines, potentially endangering the patients who depend on those devices.
Erik Jan van Lieshout and Remko van der Togt, along with their colleagues at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center, tested whether the presence of RFID transponders and the readers they transmit to could interfere with the function of 41 different electronic medical devices. The team examined both an active RFID system, in which the tags have batteries that allow them to transmit continuously, and a passive system, whose tags are powered only when in the range of a transmitter’s electromagnetic field. In 123 tests, they found 34 incidences of interference.