Stopping the clock

The dangers of RFID tags in hospitals.

News from JAMA :

Researchers from Amsterdam University (van der Togt, Lieshout et al.) tested RFID tags and readers on 41 electronic medical devices. In 123 tests, RFID signals caused 22 incidents that could have been hazardous in a clinical setting.

The New Scientist snippet I got this from (here, behind paywall) – not the original article – concludes that RFID technology has to be kept out of hospitals.

There is a radical alternative. The makers of medical equipment should adapt their expensive products to the Maxwellian plenum we actually live in, saturated with radio waves at every imaginable frequency, and not some adiabatic ideal.

It is a well-known medical fact that doctors are protected by Semmelweiss fields (footnote) from transmitting bugs to patients with their hands and ties, and causing interference with their pagers. But they still have to worry about the hoi polloi: nurses, orderlies, visitors, and the patients themselves. As with consumer devices on aircraft, something has to give – and it won’t be the iPhone.


Semmelweiss fields strengthen with seniority, and so form a special case of the more general Keiserenseffekt identified by H.C.Andersen in 1837.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web