The world is about to become a much healthier place, as hospitals begin to place small chips under the skins of their clients. The chip will link the client to a central database, where the entire medical record of the patient can be read by the doctor prescribing treatment. This will be of practical use when a patient is unconscious and the doctor has no idea what is wrong. So the world will become healthier -- but safer? Maybe not.
The above is just one of the many uses implantable RFID (radio frequency identification) is getting in the medical field. The procedure has already being approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) since late 2004 in the United States, and seems set to spread to other North American countries like Canada. Other interesting uses it has found in the medical field include allowing psychiatric hospitals keep track of their patients wandering around the hospital.
Other implantable RFIDs include sensors that detect information such as vital signs and micro-organisms in the body, and take advantage of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to transmit their information. They enable doctors to remotely monitor the vital signs of patients who are in distant locations. Some other implantable sensors do not transmit information outside the body; they serve as diagnostic agents in the human body to monitor disease spread and response to treatment. "Bio implants," as researchers call them, are seemingly on the increase in the medical field.
Rare animals in the wild, birds on migration, nocturnal animals, and animals that do seasonal migration have frequently been tagged by naturalists, zoologists and wildlife conservationists so that they could keep track of their movements and their numbers. Tagging using RFID has now spread to humans, which leads us to an interesting stage in medicine. After examining the technology, we will look at how relevant this really is to the medical field, and how it will affect questions of privacy for the individual (or is that a bygone issue?). Is this technology necessary in medicine? And even if it is, is it simply expedient? Or is it a truly bad idea?
Let's take a look at the VeriChip product. Based on RFID technology, this implantable VeriMed Patient identification system serves as a means of linking patients to health care databases. Doctors will have access to the patient's records and will be able to treat the patient if he or she is unconscious and is unable to state his or her medical history. The system is good for people that suffer from conditions which can cause a state of unconsciousness, such as diabetes or sickle cell anemia. It is even better for people who suffer from a sudden accident, yet who have specific allergic reactions against some kinds of medication (for example, I have severe allergies and become ill if I am treated with quinine-based medication -- and many people have allergies to antibiotics or other medications that are commonly used to treat injuries).
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