Implant procedure, real world

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-01-28 Print this article Print

read rate results"> Halamka said the implant procedure itself was "painless" and "took five minutes in a doctors office." The RFID device is about the size of two grains of rice, and its inserted using what Halamka described as "a big syringe." It is typically inserted into the triceps area of the right arm, an attractive area because its relatively clean, more pain-free than other body parts, and its easily accessed in an emergency.
To be precise, the skin is treated with a sterile iodine solution and the RFID chip is inserted less than one-quarter-of-an-inch into the triceps fascia, which is a connective tissue that envelops the triceps. Because it rests within the fascia, it is not technically considered subdermal, and it also does not cause the discoloration typical with subdermal procedures. The benefit of the consistent placement, Halamka said, is that emergency room personnel can routinely give a quick scan to that part of the arm to see if an RFID chip exists. Otherwise, there would be no way for staff to know that it existed. A trio of big-league retail CIOs demonstrated their future plans for RFID at the National Retail Federation show in January. To read more, click here. Halamka said his body seems to have accepted the RFID chip without incident. His chip is made by VeriChip Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Applied Digital. "The RFID is enclosed in medical-grade glass. It is just seen as a foreign body" but a non-threatening one, he said. "Theres no immune system on the planet that attacks glass." This is similar to the way the body sees a properly administered intravenous (IV) insert, Halamka said, adding that the glass itself is so thin that it has no risk of breaking. The implanted RFID chip "will last for hundreds of years, longer than I will," Halamka said. But if there is some kind of a problem, the method for removing the chip is far more invasive and troublesome than inserting it. The removal process involves actual surgery, albeit a minor one. Because it is a passive device, the RFID chip requires no independent power source and accesses all needed power from the radio signal. The small handheld reader needs to be within five inches of the chip to get a signal. RFID adoption is likely to hit more snags this year. For details, click here. Halamka has found that the read-rates under real-world conditions are excellent and consistent. "I have experimented with reading it from a variety of angles and distances," including during a mountain climb where the temperature fell to minus-20 at a 6,000-foot altitude. The only reader-related concern the CIO expressed was that the readers are proprietary. Once standards take better hold and competing quality readers are on the market, hed feel better about recommending the technology, he said. As for the privacy concerns, the doctor said he was confident it could be worked out. He envisions a trusted host-like approach, where a major hospital would have access and could then extend access to trusted individuals. Halamka estimated that there are about 200 people today with the RFID chip implants, many of them in Mexico where the government is using them as secure identifiers. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on health care.

Evan Schuman is the editor of's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at

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