The (Orwellian?) Future Is Now for Patient-Data Chips

This morning’s Washington Post reports on the gradually growing use of implanted microchips that provide instant access to a computerized medical record. VeriChip Corp. (Delray Beach, FL) received FDA approval for its VeriChip, which uses radiofrequency identification (RFID), about two years ago. This is the same technology used to trace livestock and household pets. The firm is targeting Washington, DC to be the first large metropolitan area with multiple hospitals that can read the chip. If the chip can be read, it provides immediate identification of and medical records for patients who, for example, may have been admitted to the hospital unconscious. This technology is creating excitement because of its ability to speed care and prevent errors. It’s also a source of concern about privacy issues, as some wonder whether the ability to scan RFID from a distance will make unauthorized access to medical records easier, or whether the technology will otherwise be abused. Let’s hope the technology receives more publicity in the future, so patients have as much information as they need to make the right choice.
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