Electronic implants may soon hold life-saving health information

Photo credit: Getty/standret

Use of electronic implants in the skin is growing, with the tiny devices able to unlock doors and even store personal health information.

Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) can activate and scan the devices. Medical personnel can access a tag during an emergency and receive information about the patient that could help save his or her life, according to an article at The Wall Street Journal.

Another use of such a device in healthcare includes allowing people with conditions like epilepsy to have health information readily available.

Kevin Warwick, deputy vice chancellor at Coventry University in England, tells the WSJ that while people with such conditions can wear bracelets or other pendants with information on their condition, they can lose or forget about the devices. But a tag implanted under the skin could allow paramedics to quickly scan for information, he says.

However, the industry must consider data security when it comes to new technologies that handle medical data. Currently, electronic implants do not have the same levels of encryption as other tools, according to the article.

Another challenge is to ensure patients provide the proper consent to have the devices implanted. For example, a tag could contain a dementia patient's name, address and other information, but that patient may not be able to give the proper consent, Arianne Shahvisi, a lecturer in ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom, says in the article.

Researchers also use implanted sensors that connect to smartphones for quicker, more accurate glaucoma monitoringFierceHealthIT has previously reported.