When I worked as a Retail Loss Prevention Manager our store was located in a place where retirees would often move to for the winter in order to escape the cold. One of the questions I was asked on a fairly regular basis was if our electronic article surveillance (EAS) system would interfere with pacemakers. Customers were concerned about the tags we used but they were really fearful of the EAS pedestals since they were located right at the doors to the building. I would try to reassure them that there was no health concerns associated with the system and after a few minutes that was usually enough to allay any trepidations the customers might have had. There were some though that no matter how much time I spent trying to reassure them they could not get over that hurdle. That is why the question was posed to me more often than it may have been to a peer somewhere else. Studies have been done that show there is minimal chance EAS could interfere with pacemakers and similar medical devices. Stores aren’t the only place the technology is used. It is important for healthcare providers to understand this as they consider the need to protect mobile medical devices from tablet theft of i-Pad theft.
Many medical offices from general practitioners to dentists are realizing the advantages of using mobile technology to improve patient care, share information with patients and protect records. Loose papers and stray clipboards are slowly being replaced with an i-Pad or a tablet. Patients are now using these devices to register new accounts including all of their personal information but now it is quickly accessed at the touch of a button. The down side is that if one of these mobile devices is stolen there is a chance client information can be accessed by criminals. Many offices that have made the switch to technology over paper have taken steps to protect the mobile units with an Alpha Bug Tag attached to a device and set up EAS towers at the doors. When protected devices are carried into the detection field of the towers, alarms alert employees and who then prevent an i-Pad theft from taking place. The tags are also tamper proof which prevents a thief from being able to remove an anti-theft device and steal a tablet. Attempts to pry a tag off of a device sets off an alarm built into the Alpha Bug Tag again foiling efforts of someone trying to steal protected information.
The safety of electronic article surveillance on pacemakers has been documented many times. For instance the American Heart Association on their website www.heart.org states, “Interactions with EAS systems are unlikely to cause clinically significant symptoms in most patients.” On the other hand, with regard to MP3 players the website says, “Most contain a magnetic substance and research has documented that placing the headphones too close to the pacemaker caused interference.” Another concern is raised with power- generating equipment, arc welding equipment and powerful magnets. The site continues, “Such as found in some medical devices, heavy equipment or motors can inhibit pulse generators.” On their website, hopkinsmedicine.org, Johns Hopkins Hospital article for potential patients, “Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) Insertion” provides the caution, “Anti-Theft systems or electronic article surveillance (EAS) used in department stores may interact with an ICD. The American Heart Association recommends you should not lean on or stand in this equipment but should pass quickly through the detection system.”
There is potentially more risk involved in a visit to a doctor’s office or hospital from the medical equipment in those facilities than that associated with EAS. The American Heart Association warns of interference from MRI’s, Radio Frequency Ablation (a medical procedure that uses radio waves to manage a variety of arrhythmias) and Short-wave or microwave diathermy (a medical procedure that uses high-frequency, high-intensity signals for physical therapy). Each of these can disrupt or damage the pacemaker a patient is carrying.
The point I am making is that medical providers should adapt mobile devices in the practice to improve service and save time. Any concern over i-Pad theft or tablet theft and the compromise of protected patient information can be laid to rest with the use of Alpha Bug Tags and EAS technology. Patients who may have pacemakers need not worry about interference with their devices.
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