As you hunt for Pokémon across the Kansas City area, don’t search in hospitals or health care centers.
A spot check of area hospitals shows several have requested that players, or “trainers,” master their monsters elsewhere.
Playing Pokémon Go, the smartphone app game that lets users hunt for the virtual creatures in the real world, poses a real risk to patients, visitors and employees, according to a memo sent to employees of University of Kansas Hospital.
The statement identified risks to physical safety, patient privacy, player privacy, computer security and personal safety. (Since the game launched, trainers across the country have been injured and robbed while playing the game, and there are concerns about the game’s cybersecurity.)
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The hospital also is asking Pokémon Go to remove PokéStops — places where players can cash in on extra Pokéballs — from the hospital’s property, and it is asking players not to hunt Pokémon on hospital grounds.
Pokémon Go “is an enticement to bring players into areas where we can’t accommodate them,” Bob Spaniol, director of HIPAA commitment for the University of Kansas Hospital Authority, said in an interview. “We’re busy and we’re trying to take care of patients.”
Spaniol said the hospital received reports of people in restricted areas, so the hospital decided to encourage people to play the game elsewhere.
The hospital also was concerned about liability in case of an accident or breach of privacy.
“This is a game, and we don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but we have to take care of our people,” said Dennis McCulloch, a hospital spokesman.
A spokeswoman for Saint Luke’s Health System said she hasn’t received reports of complaints about the augmented reality game. Still, Saint Luke’s went ahead and requested that the game remove PokéStops from its property.
“Unfortunately, gameplay can lead to disruption in patient care,” said a statement shared with Saint Luke’s employees and visitors who ask about the game.
“While we recognize the excitement and fun surrounding this game, our first and foremost priority is the safety, privacy and care of our patients. For those reasons, we are now actively restricting players (visitors, employees, and general members of the public) from playing the game while on property at any Saint Luke’s facility.”
Children’s Mercy Hospital also is requesting that people not play the game, citing security concerns, according to a spokeswoman.
Health care facilities in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Nebraska have also taken steps to restrict play and remove PokéStops from their buildings, according to media reports.
However, some health care centers see the game as an opportunity to help patient recovery. Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan are using the game to encourage their littlest patients to get up and move around, though there are still some areas that are off limits.
It’s unclear exactly how PokéStops are placed at certain locations, though they usually sit at a city landmark or a well-known site. To remove one from the game, a property owner can submit a form on Pokémon Go’s website. However, removal isn’t automatic or guaranteed, and it’s unknown how fast, if at all, Niantic will respond.
For now, it’s best to leave the Kansas City area’s hospital halls and look for Pokémon at the Plaza, a Royals game or anywhere else around town the monsters have been prowling.