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Making the Future of Heart Monitoring a Reality


Posted in Cardiovascular by Brian Buntz on August 27, 2012

The importance of the wireless paradigm for the field of cardiology is growing quickly. A new ecosystem is required, however, to support the big advances around the corner.  


Imagine a future in which heart patients are implanted with multiple tiny sensors. “These sensors talk to each other within the body but there is a single point where the information is collected within the body and transmitted out,” says Elizabeth Hoff, vice president and general manager of Cardiac Connected Care at Medtronic. “That transmission likely will go to a cell phone which will then go to a monitoring center or an Internet site and someone will be watching that.”

In the future, your heart metrics could be routed to your cell phone to give you real-time knowledge of your heart health. Above image based on circuit board and a heart images from Flickr. 

What this might look like for, say, a 50-year-old heart patient is that they will first opt in to have these sensors implanted and to have data from them tracked. After that, a monitoring company could continuously monitor their heart health and send an alert—to the patient and their physician—if symptoms worsen.

If a family member has a heart condition, you, as a family caregiver, could be alerted if problems arise. The monitoring company could send you regular reports that list data such as activity levels, sleep duration, as well as information such as heart rate variability and so forth. 

“It really is our vision that, as devices get smaller and smaller, the connectivity of those moves up through everyday common interfaces like a cell phone into an Internet system. And all of this is monitored by someone,” Hoff says. “If you think about OnStar in cars right now, you can get alerted if you need to add more wiper fluid or if your oil needs to get changed.”

“It really is our vision that, as devices get smaller and smaller, the connectivity of those moves up through everyday common interfaces like a cell phone into an Internet system...”

“We’ve got the technology now to do much of that [in heathcare], but we don’t have the ecosystem around it,” Hoff says. “We don’t necessarily have wellness companies and monitoring centers that want to look at this information. We’ve not yet collaborated with specialty doctors about the appropriate information to give the patients that is palatable as opposed to highly technical.”

The technical components are ready for building the future described above, Hoff says. “But the ecosystem needs to catch up.” There needs to be new regulations that lay out guidelines regarding cell phones tracking data from interbody implants. The regulations should spell out answers to questions like:

  • Who looks at the data?
  • How often do they look at the data?
  • Who gets the data and when do they get it?

Developing this future ideally would require the collaboration of the industry, physicians, and patients, Hoff says. 

Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz. He will be chairing the upcoming MedTech Cardio event held October 30 and 31 in Minneapolis. 


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