Embedding microchips in workers–does this have potential in healthcare?

It’s not just for pets anymore. Embedding microchips for various purposes subcutaneously in people is a bit of technology that appears to be gaining traction. The employees of Three Square Market, a company that provides self-service mini-markets in commercial settings such as hotels or company breakrooms (what in this Editor’s airline days we dubbed ‘the iron kitchen’ or Ick) are happily planting chips in their skin to ID themselves into the office, onto their computers, and buy lunch in the company café. About the size of long-grain rice, they have no power source other than that supplied by an external RFID reader. About 80 employees of Three Square Market now have it, having started with 30 a year ago. It also seems to have caught on in Sweden.

In the glowing MIT Technology Review article, there seems to be little concern that the chip might have a long-term health effect even as minor as a cyst or fibroma, being that it is a foreign object. Chips could also be ‘pinged’ to detect location or download information.

Of interest in the healthcare area are the following:

  • Three Square’s president, Patrick McMullan, stores some health information on his chip
  • Three Square is also investigating the hot area of hand hygiene in hospitals. During this month into September, they are testing RFID bracelets at two hospitals in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Hudson, Wisconsin that verifies when doctors and nurses wash their hands using the proxy of turning on a sink through the sink’s RFID reader. 
  • Embedding chips in hospital and LTC staffs could increase areas such as hand hygiene, enforce security in restricted areas, and provide data for task or time/motion studies.
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