Are RFID chips the future of medical tattoos?

medical tattoo vs RFID chip

As technology has advanced, there’s more to tattoos these days than sole artwork on the canvas of the human body. Now there is a different aspect of tattooing that’s giving people a lot more. Medical tattoos serve a dual purpose to cover a scar or medical condition like alopecia or vitiligo or to provide important medical information to Emergency Medical Technicians and doctors in the event of an emergency.

In this article, we will reflect on the use of implantable chips as a way to replace medical tattoos and carry your Health Electronic Record (EHR) under your skin, anytime and anywhere.

What is a medical tattoo?

Medical Tattoos for aesthetic purposes

Many people aren’t familiar with the word medical tattoo and what it means. Different things might come to mind when you hear the term, but what is a medical tattoo exactly? Medical tattooing is also known as micro-pigmentation. It’s a therapeutic and corrective aesthetic procedure.

The tattoo is designed to camouflage an area of a person’s body that has experienced undesirable changes. In many instances, the same procedure is used to correct or cover up conditions that someone didn’t have at birth, like achromia.

The process isn’t painful since the practitioner applies a topical anesthetic first around the area that needs to be treated. However, the patient has the option of foregoing the anesthetic. To achieve the desired result, a recipient might need more than one treatment.

Some applications include:

  • Restoration of areola pigmentation
  • A burn or scan camouflage
  • Hair follicle stimulation
  • Brightening and fixing uneven skin tones
  • Stretch marks camouflage
  • Nipple restoration from a mastectomy surgery
  • Allergy information
  • Information about critical medical conditions
  • Guides for the administration of medical procedures or treatments

Medical Alert Tattos for informational purposes

Medical tattoos are also used to provide healthcare professionals with critical patient information in an emergency. For example, in situations where the patient is unconscious or unable to communicate, these medical alert tattoos act as a synopsis of major aspects of a patient’s condition that medical staff would need to know to best care for the patient.

This information may include allergies, serious medical conditions. These types of tattoos can also be used to guide where certain types of treatment need to be administered, like radiation.

During getting a medical tattoo, tiny spheres of sterile organic pigments are deposited on the upper layer of the skin, also known as the dermis. Medical tattoos can sometimes differ slightly from medical alert tattoos since they require specialized tattoo machines, smaller pigments, as well as smaller needles.

Pros and Cons of Medical Alert Tattoos

Pros of Medical Alert Tattoos

  • They give potentially life-saving instructions
  • They are more visible that RFID chips

Cons of Medical Alert Tattoos

  • EMSs are not trained to check for tattoos
  • The instructions written are not legally binding
  • They are permanent

What are implantable RFID chips?

The process of implanting RFID chips is more involved than simply applying ink to the skin when getting a medical tattoo. First, your skin has to be sliced open to insert the implant underneath. That’s probably something unfamiliar to most people.

So what are RFID chips really? Radio-frequency identification (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.

RFID chips work with a reader or corresponding scanner. They have a lot of significant benefits, more than barcode labels. An RFID chip doesn’t have to be placed right in front of the reader because it communicates with a reader through radio waves, unlike barcode technology which uses infrared. Therefore, line-of-sight isn’t required.

Some RFID chips don’t need to be close together. They can still function even if they’re several feet or meters apart, unlike barcode readers or labels that need to be relatively close. The chip can also transmit data simultaneously to multiple readers, while a single reader can only read a barcode.

There are many options when it comes to RFID chips. Some are passive because they don’t require batteries, while others are active chips and require batteries. There are those designed for outdoor applications and those designed for indoor use. The most common uses include identification and object tracking.

Other differences include the radio frequencies they use to operate. Some use Ultra High Frequency, and others use High Frequency or Low Frequency to communicate. They can be attached as implants on animals and human beings. Other places they can be attached include vehicles, clothes, containers, and even plants.

Pros and Cons of RFID Chips

Pros of RFID Chips

  • They can contain a lot of information
  • A patient can carry his medical file under his skin

Cons of RFID Chips

  • They can be hacked
  • They are not mainstream so paramedics will not chek for them and are not equipped to read the information
  • They can be hacked

Replacing medical tattoos with RFID chips

Currently, many people have implanted these chips under their skin. RFID implants, also known as digital tattoos, are flexible patches placed on your skin to measure vital signs. Digital tattoos can act as mini-labs that render the skin an interactive display and make healthcare more visible. In addition, they’re flexible, waterproof, and impervious to twisting and stretching.

However, before you decide to join the trend and get implants instead of getting a regular medical tattoo, there are some things you should know. First, the process involves getting an RFID chip in your body underneath your skin. The chip is considered a digital tattoo because when the artist hovers a mobile phone over the chip, different pre-selected images appear on the screen.

The implant isn’t a temporary tattoo that you can quickly get rid of. That’s one of the unpleasant things about getting these implants. You should ask yourself some questions, like how safe it is for your health, who will implant it, and how can you get rid of it? The process needs to be completed by a person with enough experience in performing aseptic procedures.

You shouldn’t ever consider implanting an RFID chip yourself. This is because the procedure should be done in a clean area with sterilized instruments. It helps reduce the chances of infection. The level of pain you feel getting the implant is similar to being stung by a bee or donating blood.

You can feel the same level of pain when the RFID transponder is removed. However, the removal procedure isn’t complicated, and there are no interference issues with MRI. You also do not have to worry about getting stopped at airport security gates, airport scanners, or metal detectors due to the chip.

One good thing about the implants is that they are durable. It doesn’t matter what type of vigorous activity you’re involved in. The chip probably won’t break. RFID chips aren’t strong enough to be tracked or connected to any satellite, but some recipients worry that corporations can control them. According to some biohackers, it’s easy to hack an implant, so it’s not advisable to store any private information in the implant’s memory.

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