HIPAA Journal is the leading provider of news, updates, and independent advice for HIPAA compliance

Hospitals Saying No to Pokemon Go

The Pokemon Go craze sweeping the globe is causing a number of problems for U.S. hospitals leading many to issue bans on playing the game anywhere on hospital premises.

The location-based augmented reality mobile game requires players to get out and about and use their smartphone cameras and GPS to find and catch Pokemon – virtual reality critters that can be found in real world locations.

The scavenger hunt requires players to go to “Pokestops” to pick up free items. The Pokestops are located in popular locations such as memorials, museums, public buildings, and in some cases, hospitals. Game players are visiting these locations to collect items and this can cause problems.

Recently, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum banned visitors from playing the game as it was deemed to be inappropriate on the premises. A number of hospitals have also implemented bans on visitors, staff, and patients from playing the game on the premises for a variety of reasons.

Get The Checklist

Free and Immediate Download
of HIPAA Compliance Checklist

Delivered via email so verify your email address is correct.

Your Privacy Respected

HIPAA Journal Privacy Policy

Some hospitals have cited security concerns as players are entering hospital buildings searching for Pokemon to catch. Utah Valley Hospital has reported that players have entered the hospital to find Pokestops, while others have been found wandering the building in search of Pokemon.

Other hospitals have discovered that Pokestops have been created in emergency rooms and other parts of their premises. Increased footfall in these areas has potential to disrupt the provision of care to patients.

In addition to players causing a nuisance there is HIPAA to consider. Some hospitals are concerned that having players wandering around using their smartphone cameras could potentially violate patient privacy. There is concern that in-game photographs could be taken which could lead to patient privacy violations if the information is subsequently shared, or if the device used to take photographs is lost.

The University of Kansas Hospital Authority is concerned about liability should individuals have an accident while playing the game, or if patient privacy is violated.

Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has issued a warning to staff to be on the lookout for players entering restricted parts of the hospital while playing the game, while Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri has requested individuals do not play the game due to security concerns.

Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health in North Carolina have both issued bans on playing the game, as have Covenant HealthCare in Michigan, CHI Memorial Hospital and Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, Bon Secours St. Francis in South Carolina, University of Kansas Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital have all sent emails to staff telling them not to play the game on hospital premises. Saint Luke’s Health System and CHI Health Creighton University Medical have both contacted Nintendo requesting the removal of Pokestops from hospital grounds.

Not all hospitals are against the playing of the game. Chambersburg Hospital, PA., is encouraging individuals to play the game as a means of taking exercise, although outside the hospital. Last week, some members of staff at the hospital were at the outdoor Pokestop encouraging players to be safe while playing, handing out advice and sunscreen.

Two hospitals – Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona and  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan – have embraced the craze and are encouraging young patients to play the game as part of their physical therapy and to get them up and out of their beds to socialize and play together. However, they appear to be exceptions. Many hospitals are saying no to Pokemon Go.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.