Does your Hospital have a Pokemon Policy?

Many hospitals are dealing with the latest mobile device game craze, Pokemon Go, but not everyone is asking staff and visitors to refrain from playing on the hospital campus.

Pokemon No Go

The initial reaction to staff and visitors playing Pokemon Go is to ask them not to.  Institutions have put policies in place to prevent staff from playing the game in the workplace, and have requested visitors to not bring the game into the hospital as well.  Part of this is to avoid a self-reinforcing aspect of the Pokemon Go: the more players there are at a location, the more Pokestops are created at the location.  Players use Pokestops for scoring items needed in the game; the more players, the more Pokestops available, and the more players are attracted to the location, and so on . . .

Besides the issues of staff distraction and overcrowding in locations like the emergency department, patient privacy (HIPAA) can also be comprised when players try to take pictures of Pokemon Go icons that appear during the game.

In addition to policies on playing Pokemon Go, hospitals are asking the game designers to avoid placing Pokemon Go Icons on hospital campuses.

Pokemon Go-Friendly Policies

But some hospitals are taking a different approach.  Children’s hospitals in particular are welcoming the game into their institutions, citing the uses of the game to help children stay connected to the outside world, and even encouraging them to walk after surgery.

So what should hospitals do?  Distracted employees, threats to patient privacy and dealing with the conflicts the game engenders in other settings are real issues, and the game is not going away any time soon.  It only makes sense that hospitals adopt policies regulating participation in the game when on duty or on the hospital campus, and asking game designers to refrain from making Pokestops and other game attributes available on the campus.  After all, the popularity of the game is no excuse for staff to allow themselves to be distracted from their duties.  And the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will not take into account that a patient complaint about privacy violations that occurred during a Pokemon Go photo shoot.

Hospitals that want to make the game available to patients will have a greater challenge, trying to gain the benefits of the game while avoiding the downsides.  It will take real commitment to manage this approach, and we will not know for a while if they are successful.

When you need proven expertise and performance

Jim Hook, MPH

Mr. James D. Hook has over 30 years of healthcare executive management and consulting experience in medical groups, hospitals, IPA’s, MSO’s, and other healthcare organizations.