BOSTON -- Physicians and medical-device manufacturers prepared this week for the next big step in cardiac care: the debut of the Internet-enabled heart.
The world's biggest manufacturers of pacemakers, defibrillators, and other heart devices said at the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology conference here that it plans to roll out Internet-enabled products, some as early as this summer.
Medtronic Inc., Minneapolis, demonstrated the Chronicle, an implantable heart-monitoring device now being clinically tested by physicians in applications where it transmits critical patient information to secure Internet sites.
Medtronic engineers said the Internet capabilities will be carried over to the company's pacemakers and defibrillators sometime this year.
Similarly, St. Jude Medical, also based in Minneapolis, showed off its soon-to-be-introduced Housecall 2, a tabletop "transtelephonic" monitoring system designed for use with the company's implantable defibrillators.
The device, which allows patients at home to connect to a remote server, is being considered for Internet connectivity.
Physicians at the conference said they eagerly await the integration
of Internet capabilities into implantable heart devices.
If used properly, they said, the Internet could be a powerful tool to
help patients concerned about the condition of their hearts, or about
the operation of their implanted pacemakers or defibrillators.
This would be an incredible adjunct for patients who call their
physician and believe their heart has had a shock," said Dr. Mark
Schoenfeld, director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacer
Laboratory at the Hospital of St. Raphael, New Haven, Conn. "Right
now, we have patients who often must travel two hours just to find out
that nothing's wrong."
"The potential for this is straight out of Star Wars," added Dr. Paul
Levine, vice president and medical director of the St. Jude Medical
Cardiac Rhythm Management Division and a clinical professor of
medicine at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif. "It's nothing
short of a revolution in medicine."
Medical professionals say the revolution is being fueled by a
universal demand for remote patient management. With less face-to-face
time available for patients, physicians and health-care managers say
they want new techniques to deal with patient needs.
By Charles J. Murray