Keeping 'Track' of Patients

We always worry about Big Brother watching over us — but sometimes it's nice to have a big brother.

Last night I got a phone call from a friend who was in a panic because his elderly parents were missing — yes, I said missing. Apparently, they were both in their mid-eighties with some degree of senile dementia. They drove to their doctor's appointment, but never returned home. My friend called all the hospitals in the area as well as the police stations, looking frantically for where they might have been. Thank God, they were found 18 hours later some 20 miles away — confused, but in good shape.

Senile dementia is a very difficult chapter for many families. Patients can get disoriented very easily and forget their surroundings — leading them to get lost, and often hurt. Recently, I discovered a device that is being utilized in some senior retreats. Carried like a small ID card, the device allows families as well as health providers to monitor the whereabouts of patients that have early stages of senile dementia, or limited recall. Through the use of a computer, this microchip sends signals that map out via a secure website, the exact location of the individual carrying the electronic device. The beauty is that patients are not restrained just to one location, giving the caregiver more flexibility.

Another device that seems to have a bright future is the VeriChip. This chip is embedded inside the skin (usually the upper arms) of patients, and it contains specific, potentially lifesaving medical history. Recently, a police officer who had received the chip found himself in an emergency situation. ER personnel secured access to the officer's medical history, which included critical information on his diabetic condition, saving precious time. Having a patient identification system like this allows patients to receive faster treatment during the critical period of a medical emergency.

So as you can see, once in while it is important to have a big brother, or for that matter, a big sister!

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Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit