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Insurers to Test Implantable Microchip

THERESA AGOVINO / AP | July 18 2006

NEW YORK - In a new test program, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey plans to implant patients suffering from chronic diseases with a microchip that will give emergency room staff access to their medical information and help avoid costly or serious medical errors, the insurer said on Friday.

Horizon plans to announce on Monday that it is teaming up with Hackensack University Medical Center in a pilot program where 280 patients regularly treated at the hospital will be implanted with a chip containing a code. The chip would allow emergency room personnel to retrieve a patient's medical record if the individual can't communicate.

The rice-sized microchip is implanted in a patient's right arm above the elbow and can be detected using equipment at the hospital.

The hope is that the chips will help doctors avoid medical errors like duplicating medical tests, dangerous drug interactions and bad diagnoses.

Within the next 30 days, Horizon will start sending letters to patients with chronic diseases explaining the new program and inviting them to participate. The program is voluntary and won't cost the patient any money to participate.

Patients with chronic conditions are the program's target because they are more likely to have serious medical problems that could leave them unable to communicate when they are at the emergency room, said Dr. Richard Popiel, vice president and chief medical officer at Horizon. For example, diabetics with low blood sugar may become confused or unconscious.

He said Horizon will test the program for two years to see if it warrants expansion.

VeriChip Corp. makes the chips and detection equipment. Hackensack already had the equipment because it was part of VeriChip's development program.




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