By Na Jeong-ju
The state-run disaster control agency is working with a credit card company to issue cards that will contain biological information about holders to enable a quick and effective treatment in the event of an emergency.
Heated debate concerning possible privacy violation and the consequences a leakage of such information could bring will match daytime temperatures.
The National Emergency Management Agency said it has signed a deal with Korea Exchange Bank’s credit card unit to issue the cards, tentatively named “Respect Life Cards,” as early as next month.
Like any other credit card, it will be used the plastic to buy products and services, but it will have an electronic chip containing encrypted information about the holder’s identity, blood type, past health conditions and treatment record as well as the hospitals they go to.
The agency will use mobile radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to manufacture the cards. They will be useful for patients who need emergency health care, the agency said.
“Emergency service workers will carry RFID devices that can read information contained in the chip from a short distance so that they can take appropriate measures immediately in an ambulance,” an agency spokesman said. “They then will be able to contact the hospital the patient goes to for quick treatment.”
Regarding concerns about a possible leakage of such information, the official said the RFID devices will be provided only to emergency service workers.
“All information contained in the chip will be encoded, so only emergency service workers who have the RFID devices will be able to check the data,” the official said.
The agency plans to run a website in which applicants for the cards can input the required information and contact numbers emergency staff can call for an ambulance. They can change the information later and whenever they want.
The agency noted that the cards are an example of the convergence of technologies and medical services, saying card holders will be able to get faster and more effective service in an emergency situation.
“For instance, when a man with diabetes becomes unconscious and an ambulance is called, emergency workers have to test their blood-sugar before taking emergency measures. This takes some time. If the man has the card, he can receive the proper treatment right away,” the official said.
The National 119 Rescue Services welcomed the measure, saying it will quicken emergency medical treatment.
“Rescue workers can carry the RFID devises or install them on emergency beds. They will ensure effective timely treatment,” said an official from the agency.