A pilot project is bringing free Wi–Fi to patients and families at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton, funded by the hospital foundation.

si-sam-fielding

Sam Fielding, chief technology officer for Horizon Health Network, says it's a balance trying to meet patients' demands for connectivity with the uncertain effect of devices on equipment. (CBC)

People will, however, still have to shut off their devices in areas where patients are being monitored.

Hospitals across the country are struggling with the influx of wireless devices, from the public and staff.

Sam Fielding, chief technology officer at Horizon Health Network, says it's a balance. trying to meet patients' demands for connectivity with the still uncertain effect of devices on sensitive medical equipment. 

si-horizon-wi-fi

Horizon Health Network and five of its hospital foundations plan to launch free Wi–Fi accessibility in more hospitals in the spring. (CBC)

"We know that the risk with newer technologies is certainly decreasing, however it is not risk free. Hence the reason why we have certainly erred on the side of caution," he said.

The Canadian Agency for Drug and Technologies in Health reviewed over 100 post-2009 studies on the effects of wireless devices in hospitals.

The agency's chief exective officer, Brian O'Rourke says there was some interference with medical equipment.

"It could be anything from an alarm that goes off, a false alarm, some distortion on the screen of one of the medical instruments. Occasionally, there were stoppages of the equipment," said O'Rourke. 

However he says there was no evidence of harm to any patients as a result. 

O'Rourke says manufacturers are shielding their machines better, but it's impossible to test every machine in the hospital. He agrees with Horizon Health's approach.

Horizon Health Network and five of its hospital foundations plan to launch free Wi–Fi accessibility in more hospitals in the spring.