VeriChip Touts Medical Uses for Patient Identifier

Nov 15, 2004 at 04:16 pm by steve

The Food and Drug Administration is examining a new technology that could prove a crucial link in the ongoing development of electronic health records. Now in its final review stage, the feds want to know more about how VeriChip works — and if it has the potential to reduce medical errors. VeriChip operates on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that has been around for years. A device the size of a grain of rice is injected into the layer of fat under the skin on the right arm. Scanners placed around a facility activate a 125-kilohertz radio signal in the device that sends out an identifier number and that number is used to pull up a profile of the person: everything from a security clearance to a health profile. Some privacy groups have complained bitterly that VeriChip is just another step down the road to universal surveillance, but the company has always maintained that the use of the device has to be completely voluntary. And after Wal-Mart recently announced an ambitious effort to start tracking inventory with RFID, a host of technology groups around the country have been rapidly accelerating research in the field, looking for new applications beyond retail. A sister company under the corporate umbrella of Palm Beach, Fla.-based Applied Digital Solutions has been selling the devices for years to track animals. Richard Seelig, the vice president of medical applications, was struck by how firefighters at the World Trade Center wrote their badge numbers on their arms with a pen to identify them if they died. He inserted the RFID tag into his arm, told the CEO that it worked, and the company decided that it had a new product for humans. More recently, the Italian Ministry of Health initiated a trial of the VeriChip in one of the country's biggest hospitals in Rome. The Mexican Attorney General inserted one in his arm as a way to experiment how it can be used south of the border, where it could become a defense against kidnapping. The company has been developing a new device equipped with a global positioning system to identify a person's location, but the device is the size of a pacemaker and researchers are attempting to miniaturize the technology for easier use. VeriChip sees the device playing a big role in the developing biometric market, where eye scans and other physical identifiers are being used to OK financial transactions and gain entry to secure locations. But the company also believes that the healthcare field offers some big opportunities. Providers could scan a patients arm and use the identifier number to access an electronic health record stored in a secure database — perhaps in the patient's primary care doctor's office or inside a VeriChip database. "Then if I were to go to a hospital unconscious, a proprietary scanner would scan the right arm and that links to a secure database where my information is stored," says Angela Fulcher, a spokesperson for VeriChip. "I determine what's on there — my blood type, allergies, insurance information, date of birth, whatever. Maybe I have an artificial knee, the record would provide details of when it was put in and what (brand) it was. It would replace the archaic process emergency rooms have for retrieving information. "We're aware that this isn't going to happen overnight or next year," she adds, "but eventually we see it as a way to get information in a timely fashion in a triage situation." A whole host of chronically ill patients like diabetics could find the VeriChip making the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. Privacy experts, though, are given chills by VeriChip. EPIC — Electronic Privacy Information Center — Executive Director Marc Rotenberg has called the chip an "electronic leash" and its online site notes that the technology is easily adapted to tracking and monitoring people. Some Christian groups have even taken to calling the chip the "mark of the beast" prophesied in Revelations. But VeriChip isn't giving any ground to privacy groups opposed to the technology. "Our position is that VeriChip protects your privacy," says Fulcher. "It's not a Smart Card that can be taken from your wallet. It's secure and tamper-proof. And once removed, it becomes inoperable."

November 2022

Nov 18, 2022 at 03:06 pm by steve

You're November 2022 Iss of Birmingham Medical News is Here!