Amid 'Pokemon Go' craze, hospitals say game players could jeopardize patient safety

The game encourages users to enter hospitals, other institutions

Hospitals around the nation are urging players of the popular mobile game "Pokemon Go" not to enter their facilities or gather on their campuses for the purpose of "catching" Pokemon.

Screenshot of "Pokemon Go"

"Pokemon Go" is a smartphone app that uses the phone's GPS and camera to allow users to search for virtual Pokemon characters in the real world, making it appear as if the Pokemon are actually near game players. Pokemon can appear anywhere, such as in schools, businesses, and even private residences. The players then go to that location to catch the Pokemon.

The game was released only about a week ago, but already it has been downloaded millions of times on Apple and Android devices and is causing crowding and safety concerns at some hospitals as players flock to catch the Pokemon.

At Utah Valley Hospital, the game has directed players to areas near the hospital's helipad, which can be dangerous for both patients and players, and to other locations in and around the hospital.

Janet Frank, a hospital spokesperson, said, "If there are extra people who are here not for a patient care reason, then that can cause problems," adding that players should stay outside of the hospital. "If there was a big group of people [entering the hospital], then that could be very concerning."

Larry Daly, a spokesperson at Covenant Healthcare in Michigan, said the hospital had seen an influx of people coming inside the hospital to catch Pokemon. "Covenant prohibits entry into the hospital to hunt for Pokemon," he said in a statement, adding that the hospital's "security department and the local police have been alerted to this situation."

"Our patients need their rest, and protection from germs," Daly said. "We hope parents help children understand the seriousness of this issue and only allow children to enter Covenant facilities when they are appropriately visiting patients."

Other facilities, including the Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, have also asked people to stop playing the game on their grounds.

Players have been injured

Several reports indicate that players have sustained injuries while attempting to catch Pokemon.

The game does warn players to be "remember to be alert at all times" and to "stay aware of your surroundings."

Even so, according to the Washington Post's "The Switch," one "Pokemon Go" user reported ending up the ED after slipping and falling down a ditch while playing the game. The user reportedly fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his or her foot. "Watch where you're going, folks," the user wrote on Reddit.

The Associated Press reports that other players have twisted their ankles, walked into trees, and cut their hands while their eyes were glued to the app on their smartphone screens.

"As an upside," Ryan Nakashima writes for the Associated Press, "players get more exercise than usual" as they walk around searching for Pokemon.

Some hospitals have also noted that the game has encouraged kids to be more active:

And Sunnybrook Hospital tweeted, "We love that #PokemonGO encourages exercise! Remember: stay alert & safe. Can’t catch 'em all from a hospital bed" (Punke, Becker's Hospital Review, 7/12; Jordan, Michigan Live, 7/12; Dodson, Daily Herald, 7/12; Abad-Santos, Vox, 7/13; Hersher, "The Two-Way," NPR, 7/12; Tsukayama, "The Switch," Washington Post, 7/10; Nakashima, Associated Press, 7/8; Jula, New York Times, 7/11).

Another way to keep patients safe: Engage your care staff

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Crazes like "Pokemon Go" may come and go, but one thing that remains constant is the importance of ensuring that frontline nurses are engaged in their work, committed to their organization's mission, and capable of delivering high-quality care in a complex and constantly changing environment.

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