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Pokemon Go a No-Go at Allegheny Health Network

By HealthLeaders Media News  
   August 03, 2016

The Pennsylvania hospital system is one of several that see the popular game as a threat to patients' physical safety and privacy, and a threat to hospital data security.

Outside of the presidential race, perhaps no topic has been as divisive in our culture this summer as Pokemon Go.

Proponents of the video game sensation say it's bringing people together—some towns sponsoring Pokemon walks and it's encouraging physical activity. Mental health advocates say the game can help some persons with mental illness.

Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital is one of several healthcare organizations that encourages young patients to get out of bed and play the popular game.

But the tide may be quickly turning.

Many dislike the fact that the game is a distraction, causing people to crash their cars and even walk off the edges of cliffs. And, on top of that, some oblivious players have been trying to catch Pokemon in inappropriate locations, such as Arlington National Cemetery and at the Holocaust Museum.

So it's no surprise that, despite the fitness and possible behavioral health benefits, some hospitals are beginning to ask that patients abstain from playing the game while in their facilities.

Pennsylvania-based Allegheny Health Network, a division of Highmark Health, recently asked Niantic, Pokemon Go's manufacturer, to remove all AHN locations from the app.

"Because Allegheny Health Network hospitals and other facilities are technically public places, they are open to being identified as Pokemon gym locations," stated a memo to all AHN employees. "The presence of Pokemon Go players in our facilities compromises physical safety, patient privacy, computer security, and personal safety."

The Pokemon gyms mentioned in the memo are locations where players can can pick up helpful items and battle other players. The gyms can be anywhere the game manufacturer considers to be public, which apparently included some AHN facilities.

"Watch out for people walking around focused on their smartphone virtual world and not on their immediate surroundings—which is a concern for patients and visitors in our facilities," the memo continued.

"Remind players that unauthorized photography is prohibited on AHN premises. Immediately contact physical security to report anyone observed taking unauthorized pictures on AHN premises."

ANH isn't the only health system to come out against Pokemon Go. Massachusetts General Hospital recently asked staff to stop using the app while at work, and the American Hospital Association requested that Niantic remove its locations from the game.

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