Is RFID technology going to transform healthcare?

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Is RFID technology going to transform healthcare?

Is RFID technology going to transform healthcare?

What is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging? RFID tagging occurs when a super small chipset encased in a cylindrical glass housing (about the size of a grain of rice) is injected subcutaneously into the subject. The process is a simple and fairly painless procedure and takes less than 3 minutes to complete.

  • There are many reasons why this is becoming a more frequent activity in the technology and business industries: Many big companies like Apple, Samsung and Google are already working on technologies to measure your biology from the outside of your body.
  • As we already know, wearable devices ranging from watches to contact lenses will track everything including footsteps, heart rate, blood glucose, blood pressure and other critical vitals. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring the user remembers to wear the devices – they only work when they’re being worn!
  • In Singapore, a nightclub has begun employing RFID technology to help keep the roads safe. Patrons exchange their car keys for RFID tagged cards, that pair with RFID technology in urinals that reads, detects and records blood-alcohol level, and flag if they are over the legal drink drive limit.

What would your opinion of RFID be if you could incorporate the technology into your body to help you live longer, stay out of hospital and be healthy more of the time, would it change…would you use the technology?

Both Google and academics at various universities are beginning to spend more time researching RFID and nano technologies. Recently, Google described its “ambitious plan to use magnetic nanoparticles circulating through the blood to detect and report back on signs of cancer or an impending heart attack” while this project is far from coming to market, the potential is there, hospitals around the world already use implantable pacemakers and defibrillators.

In the same field of research, Texas A&M University are working on micro-particles that can be injected into the highly vascular dermis layer of the skin and can change colour to reflect changes in blood chemistry. This can be hugely beneficial, allowing doctors to monitor changes in the number of white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. This could give doctors a greater understanding of the patient’s make-up, and providing earlier diagnosis.

Continuing on the academic side of the spectrum, researchers from MIT are developing an under-the-skin sensor that they say could be “useful in the monitoring of cancer or other diseases that cause inflammation … able to detect immune reactions in patients who have artificial hips or other implanted devices.”

On a more practical level, researchers at the University of Illinois, working with colleagues in Singapore, have been looking into how to monitor electric signals produced by the heart, brain and muscles, without the usual irritation of adhesive pads. They have figured out how to embed flat, flexible, stretchable electronic sensors (which are thinner than a human hair) into temporary tattoos that can withstand wrinkling, bending and twisting of the skin.

However, RFID technology is not just used for monitoring the patient from the body. According to the RFID Journal, a complex RFID tagging system has been implemented in a Japanese hospital, to monitor 190,000 surgical tools, during cleaning, sterilisation and storage, to drastically reduce the cost of cross infection.

Future healthcare will definitely be both proactive and preventative; whether RFID technology or any other tech implant in the near-term will transform healthcare, it’s too early to say … but we should start now to think differently about what will be possible.

For a consultation or book a health screen to better understand your state of health, why not contact ToHealth on 0207531 5444. Alternatively, you can email

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