Implantable RFID: RIP?

May 7, 2009

You may remember the story of Harvard Medical School grad and CIO of CareGroup John Halamka who was an huge advocate of using implantable radio-frequency identification chips to give patients the option of being a walking EMR. Halamka actually had one of these chips implanted in his arm in late 2004, and the PR frenzy began.

You may remember the story of Harvard Medical School grad and CIO of CareGroup John Halamka who was an huge advocate of using implantable radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to give patients the option of being a walking EMR. Halamka actually had one of these chips implanted in his arm in late 2004, and the PR frenzy began. Halamka actually had one of these chips implanted in his arm in late 2004, and the PR frenzy began. Was this going to be the future of medical records? Would patients really be willing to have chips implanted on their body? Media outlets such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Fox News, and the BBC began to analyze the potential, as did HCPLive.

Well, it seems that Halamka has now resigned himself to the fact that patients are not interested in his VeriChip offering, and the company is “currently supporting our existing partners, members and healthcare facilities,” and “determining [their] strategic direction.” In fact, Halamka recently spoke with Michael Millenson, author of The Health Care Blog, at a meeting on Patient-Centered Computing sponsored by Partners HealthCare’s Center on Information Technology Leadership, and said that “As a technology it’s dead. Use the network, use the cloud to store your personal health records. Or in a pinch, use a USB drive. But the implanted RFID chip is not as a society where we’re going.”

Perhaps the emergence of cell phones as a technology to transmit health information has squashed the idea of implantable devices. Since cell phones are so widespread and accessible, patients might rather opt for this less invasive technique.

To read more about the end of the RFID EMR era, visit The Health Care Blog.

If you’d like to read about the evolution of cell phones being used in healthcare, visit the mHealth Initiative website

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