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FDA Approves Implantable Chip for Patients

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingScience fiction has become science fact. The FDA just approved the first implantable chip for patients designed to give valuable information to doctors.

This is the same technology that's been used for years to track wayward pets and livestock. And while it could provide lifesaving information, many worry about privacy issues.

Move over Fido. It's now your owner's turn to get a chip that's smaller than a grain of rice.

Here's how it works. Using a syringe, the radio frequency microchip is inserted under the skin in the inner, fatty part of the upper arm. No stitiches are required.

Each chip is encoded with a unique 16-digit verification number, much like the bar codes you see at the store.

With a hand-held scanner, doctors can read the code. The code then gets linked to patient information via encrypted internet access, and the data gets sent back to the doctor.

Doctor Michael Rokeach - head of the emergency department at CPMC thinks it's a great idea.

Dr. Michael Rokeach/ Ca Pacific Medical Center: "It's especially going to be good for patients who can't tell us a medical history. People will come in with coma, completely unresponsive, have had a stroke, maybe it's Alzheimer's, there's no family around. This is a very exciting idea."

While some critics voice privacy concerns, Dr. Rokeach says the benefits far outweigh any risk.

"If someone gave me the opportunity, I would do it. I would be much more interested in having the information available to my doctor in an emergency than worrying about someone stealing my information."

The service will cost about ten dollars a month, and patients are responsible for keeping their health data up-to-date by either calling a service center or making changes directly over the internet.

The chip doesn't need batteries. It's only activated by the hand-held scanner, and the manufacturer says they'll last for up to 20 years.

The chip is covered by a polyethylene sheath that helps the skin bond to it so the chip stays in place and won't migrate.

By the way, Verichips are already in use. They've been implanted into nearly 200 people working in Mexico's attorney general's office so they can access sensitive documents. And some people in Spain use them like a smart card to get into night clubs, and speed drink orders without having to carry any I-D or money.

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