Pokemon Go and three ways to deal with it at your hospital

July 20, 2016 Oi Hua Lee

By now you’ve probably heard about Pokemon Go—and if you haven’t, tell us where you are, we want in! No but really, if you haven’t yet heard of the game or are a little confused by the whole phenomenon, here’s a quick rundown of what it is and why of all places we’re talking about a video game on a healthcare blog.

The now popular game is based on a Japanese anime that first aired in North America in 1998, as well as the video games and trading cards that were later created by Nintendo. The new app uses your phone's GPS and augments reality by using your phone's back-facing camera to superimpose creatures, or Pokemon, to your screen that the player must find and catch. It is made up of equal parts fun and nostalgia, a combination that is clearly quite alluring.

The problem? All this fun comes at the cost of hospital security and patient safety—and that isn’t good. A huge component of the game, and perhaps one of the more interesting draws, is the requirement to scour public areas to uncover the elusive Pokemon. Harmless as it may seem, since the game’s release, hospitals have reported a rise in unauthorized persons not only on the property but also secured areas inside. As you can imagine, strangers traipsing through hospitals pose a serious threat to patient safety, privacy, and can bring in germs that can heighten the risk of infections as well.

To give you a little perspective of just how big this game is, since its initial release on July 6, 2016, the game has been rolled out to 26 countries and has more than 21 million active users. That makes it the fastest growing game in more ways than one.

So what can you do to make sure your hospital doesn’t become a hotspot for Pokemasters and potential security issues?

  1. Ask staff to be aware of who visitors are on their floor and who aren’t.
  2. Ask staff not to play on hospital grounds. Since players can set what are known as “lures” that not only attract more Pokemon but also, people.
  3. Be vigilant of crowds of people gathered together on their phone—it’s likely they're not texting their moms.

Pokemon Go may seem like a nuisance and the people playing it, a little silly, but there is a silver lining—because there’s always a silver lining. The game has become a bit of a blessing in disguise for local businesses that are attracting more customers by growth-hacking the game, and they’re not alone.

Recognizing the game’s potential, hospitals like John Hopkins and Michigan Children’s have started to use the game to encourage patients to get out of bed—because as the saying goes, if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em. In the end, no matter which side of the fence you’re sitting on, it’s hard to deny that despite still being in its infancy, Pokemon Go has made quite the impact.


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