Siemens Business Services announced this week a pilot project with Jacobi Medical Center in New York to track patients by incorporating RFID chips into the ubiquitous plastic band strapped onto patients' wrists during hospital admissions.
Encoded on the band is patient name, date of birth, gender, and a medical record number, linked to the hospital network that connects the patient record to labs, billing, and the pharmacy.
Doctors and nurses will be equipped with a tablet-style PC with an RFID reader and a Wi-Fi connection to access the network.
Today, after admitting a patient, most hospitals generate a plastic identity card which, like a credit card, imprints the patient ID onto a piece of paper inserted into the sleeve of a patient's wristband.
Jerry Moy, senior client executive at Siemens, said he has seen clerks and nurses with scissors cutting the paper and trying to stuff it into the wrist band.
"It's medieval, to say the least," said Moy.
The RFID project includes software and rolls of wristbands already embedded with RFID chips. When admitted, the basic patient information is put into the application and run through a printer encoder that impresses the patient data onto the RFID chip.
The goal is to reduce the risk of misidentifying patients and to access patient records in a more timely process, Moy said.
While the use of RFID chips on hospital wristbands may appear to be cutting edge in the United States, an initiative in Mexico City appears to be on the bleeding edge.
According to a published report in The Washington Post, about 1,000 patients, some suffering from Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, have been implanted with an RFID chip about the size of a grain of rice for purposes of identification.
Made by Applied Digital Solutions (ADS), the VeriChip is a miniaturized RFID chip with applications in health care, security, and tracking.
The ADS Web site says that the chip is usually implanted in the upper arm and is introduced under the skin by the equivalent of a flu inoculation.
Because of its small size, the chip contains only a unique verification number which, once implanted, connects to the larger network in a similar fashion as the Siemens' solution using RFID readers and Wi-Fi.
Other uses include implantable payment systems which, like a mobile speed pass, transmits the unique owner's ID number and links it to designated credit card data.
Reports from Mexico City also say that 160 members of the Mexican Attorney General's office had the VeriChip implanted as a means of secure access to a new, centralized anti-crime datacenter.
While embedding RFID chips in patients would have to be approved in the United States by the U.S. federal Drug Administration, the ADS Web site already lists numerous health care centers and private medical practices in the United States as distributors.
Castle Hills Family Practice in San Antonio, Texas, for example, confirmed that it is planning to use VeriChips in its practice.
Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering) said her biggest concern is that in the future a tyrannical state would adopt RFID implants as a way to monitor the activity of its citizens.
"This is tailor-made technology for abuse," said Albrecht.
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