Implanted RFID technology may well be a standard channel for transmitting electronic medical data at some point, but that day hasn't come yet.
Right now, RFID is battling it out against smart cards, flash drives and other as-yet-unknown storage media for the honor of being the standard for portable clinical data. We don't yet know whether the chips are worth the cost, whether the data transfer to and from the chips is cost-effective, or whether people are comfortable with the idea of carrying records under their skin. It's all up in the air.
Still, at least one state legislator--Florida Senator Bill Posey--is worried that parties unknown may soon begin slipping medical record chips into patients surreptitiously, enough so that he's backing a bill banning such practices (see third article below).
Now, he may be overreacting, but his fears are still worthy of note. While the professionals reading this newsletter aren't likely to lie awake nights worrying about secret RFID implantations, I'd wager that Senator Posey's concerns aren't unique among consumers with no HIT background. After all, anything that involves an invasive procedure makes people uncomfortable; so much more so for any procedure that puts a computing device under the skin.
To me, this suggests that if we want to keep the many benevolent uses of RFID technology available, it's going to be important to move slowly and explain carefully. Otherwise, hysteria over the potentially sneaky uses of human-based RFID chips could dim the prospects for useful, practical technologies like embedded blood glucose monitors. And that would be a shame, given the immediate and substantial benefits such applications can offer.
By all means, let concerned citizens like Senator Posey move along legislation that protects people against potential abuses of medical RFID technology, if that makes them feel safer. But let's make sure that the benefits of clinical RFID use aren't forgotten in the process. - Anne
P.S. Do you know of other interesting clinical uses of RFID technology out there today? Please drop me a note and tell me what you're hearing!