The phenomenon surrounding Pokémon Go has hit U.S. hospitals, and at least one major provider has had to tell its staff to stop using the app on facility grounds.
Officials at Massachusetts General Hospital on Thursday sent an email to staff asking them to keep from using the app while working in the facility, according to Sek Katherisan, MD, a preventive cardiology physician at MGH who posted the message on Twitter early Friday morning.
"It has come to our attention that MGH employees are among those who have been swept up in the popularity of the new mobile phone game, Pokémon Go," the message read. "We'd like to remind you that the hospital is a place for patient care, and as such, Pokémon Go may not be used during work time or on hospital property."
The game, which leverages alternate reality, is designed so users can track down characters and "catch" them in real-life locations using the app.
Pokémon Go has also caused headaches among staff at various hospitals due to players wandering onto their campuses in search of the digital characters. Published reports say that the Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, which is undergoing a large-scale hospital replacement project, is the site of four "Pokéstops," real-world locations where players can obtain virtual items to help them on their quest.
The stops include a statue in the hospital atrium, a statue outside near a fountain, a time capsule in the main entrance, and a spot near the hospital's helipad. Particularly in the case of the helipad, officials expressed concern about safety and asked people to be respectful of the property and the hospital's mission.
Cox Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has had similar concerns, reports say. While nobody has been hurt as of yet, staff has had to ask several of the game's participants to leave the grounds, and admonished people to use common sense and avoid playing around power lines, transformers and substations.
Whether the problem stems from outside players or from distracted hospital staff, however, there is recourse. The Nebraska Hospital Association has told its hospital members that they can try contacting the game's developer to have game elements removed from hospital campuses.
"Locations, known in the game as 'gyms' or 'Pokéstops' can be removed from the app by contacting the developer and filling out a form," the NHA wrote in its notice. "Hospitals wishing to remove their location should select 'submit a request,' in the upper right corner and then 'report an issue with a Gym or Pokéstop' in the pull-down menu. As of yesterday, the app has been downloaded more than 15 million times."