The use of microchip technology that contains a person’s healthcare information is one of the latest controversies in the healthcare industry. It is an extension of the electronic healthcare record and has the potential to do much more than provide accurate and timely information about the patient to healthcare workers. Has the potential to reduce human error and to provide continual monitoring of vital healthcare information. It has the potential to decrease stress and load on the nursing staff, as well as to provide more accurate assessment of patient information. Once concerns of privacy and security have been addressed, it is likely that this technology will become a part of the routine care in the healthcare system.
The use of microchip technology to contain information has been used and has become accepted for many years in animals. Microchip technology is used to identify livestock in herds and to help pets find their way home. The next phase in the use of this technology will be to hold health information that could potentially be life-saving. However, the idea of implanting a device in a human body that contains vital information has raised some social issues that must be overcome before this technology can become a reality. This research explores the topic of the microchip health record including ethical and legal concerns, how the technology would be used, and its impact on nursing practice.
Ethical and Legal Concerns
Modernizing health information has become a priority in the United States. RFID tags are being used to track and trace elements of patient care in many healthcare organizations (Meiller, Bureau, Zhou, and Piramuthu, 2011). Current use of RFID tags includes tracking body fluid samples, medications, and other elements of healthcare delivery. The acceptance of RFID tags on items that are outside of the body is widely accepted, but when the discussion turns to an implantable device within the human body, many ethical and legal concerns must be addressed.
One of the main concerns by opponents of the technology is that it could be used to collect non-health-related information about the person (Manzoor, 2016). The use of an implantable device raises questions of safety of the device itself, security, and how the information contained on the chip would be used. Safeguards need to be addressed in regards to these issues before the technology is likely to be accepted by healthcare professionals or by the public. Many of the legal issues concerning RFID microchip health records are similar to those that pertain to the current use of electronic health records.
Use of the Technology
Ethical concerns are only one aspect of the use of a microchip containing one’s healthcare information. The technology has the potential to reduce medication errors, alert staff as to comorbid conditions and potential complications with the patient. Scanning the microchip would allow the staff to have all of this information available to them immediately. This could be particularly valuable if the patient were unconscious or unable to speak for themselves.
Currently, the electronic health record (EHR), has the ability to do this, but the system is not completely developed to the point where every healthcare organization is hooked into the system. In addition, the current state of the EHR still requires manual identification of the patient. It depends on humans to carry out the positive identification task, which makes it subject to occasional human error. This is particularly the case in healthcare organizations that are understaffed, or that must care for a high number of patients. The higher the load on the staff, the more likely they are to make a mistake that could potentially cost someone their lives.
The use of the RFID microchip could help to eliminate much human error due to improperly identifying the patient. The staff could be certain that the information they had on their screen correctly matched the patient being treated. However, this technology has the potential to do so much more than to serve as a system of checks and balances to improve the frequency with which medical errors occur. They could be programmed to help remind patients of when it is time to take medication, or monitor vital functions to alert the patient if something is not right (Zanjal and Talmale, 2016). The RFID device could then alert the patient’s physician of the incident, allowing them immediate access to the care that they need. The ability to use the RFID to set reminders for the patient could be valuable in patients who are elderly or who have conditions such as dementia (Zanjal and Talmale, 2016).
Impact on Nursing Practice
The use of wireless sensor networks and microchip technology would help free nurses of many of the routine tasks associated with patient care. For instance, the RFID chip could help to monitor vitals such as respiration, heart rate, temperature, and other patient parameters that are typically monitored by the nursing staff (Gaupale, Ali, and Bankar, 2015). The information could be transferred by a wireless network to a central computer where it could be monitored by a live staff, or certain alarms could be set to alert the staff of when vital signs are out of specified limits (Gaupale, Ali, and Bankar, 2015). This type of use of microchip technology could help to free staff from otherwise routine functions so that they can attend to other patient needs. In this way, microchip technology could help to improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery by the nursing staff.
Another effect of the technology on the nursing staff is that it would help to reduce human error. They could be certain that they were looking at the right information for the right patient. They could immediately be alerted as to potential adverse drug interactions or events. The electronic health record can already do this, but it still relies on a significant amount of human input from the nursing staff, particularly when it comes to of the patient.
Present patient monitoring systems require the patient to be confined to the bed with many different sensors attached to them. The use of RFID systems could allow the patient to be monitored anywhere they are in the hospital system. This would allow them more freedom of movement and in some cases better patient outcomes than the current monitoring systems (Gaupale, Ali, and Bankar, 2015). The system could deliver real-time information and would always be on, allowing real-time response by emergency or healthcare workers (Gaupale, Ali, and Bankar, 2015).
The use of an RFID chip that contains a person’s health information is an extension of the electronic health record that is currently being used. This technology has been in use for quite some time involving animals and pets. The main concerns about using this technology in humans is its safety and assurance that it does not pose any inherent safety risks on its own, and privacy of the information. Security and misuse of the information are concerns regarding the use of the technology. In order for this technology to become accepted, patients and providers will need to be assured that these issues have been sufficiently accounted for in the development of the technology.
The use of a microchip implant that contains the patient’s help care information will help to reduce human error due to misidentification of the patient, or some errors reading the health record. It eliminates the human factor in many portions of healthcare delivery. It is possible for the microchip technology to go beyond providing basic information about the patient. It could be used to deliver real-time information about their vital signs. This would free time for the nursing staff so that they could attend to more urgent patient matters then routine vital sign monitoring. The microchip could provide a continual feed, providing a history of the vital signs, rather than snapshot where something could potentially be missed. The use of the microchip implant has the potential to improve the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare delivery. It will help to reduce medical errors and allow the healthcare system to handle an increasing patient load. Once the issues of safety and security have been addressed, the use of an implantable RFID tag is the next step in the development of the nationwide electronic health record system.
- Gaupale, S., Ali, S. & Bankar. R. (2015). Monitoring of medical parameters using wireless
sensor networks. International Journal of Recent Scientific Research. 6 (3): 2958-2960.
- Manzoor, A. (2015). RFID applications in Healthcare-State-of-the-art and Future Trends. In
Iyamu, T. & Tatnall, A. (2015). Maximizing healthcare delivery and management
through technology integration. Hershey, Pennsylvania: IGI Global.
- Meiller, Y., Bureau, S., Zhou, W. & Piramuth, S. (2011). Adaptive knowledge-based system for
health care applications with RF ID-generated information. Decision Support Systems. 51
- Zanjal, S., & Talmale, G. (2016). Medicine Reminder and Monitoring System for Secure Health Using IOT. Procedia Computer Science. 78:471-476.