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Boston Scientific Taps Telecoms For Telehealth Connectivity

Vodafone and AT&T will supply cellular services for Boston Scientific's patient cardiac monitoring devices.

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Boston Scientific Corporation has signed an agreement with telecommunications company Vodafone Global Enterprise to provide cellular service to drive clinical data on Boston Scientific's cardiac monitoring devices.

The service will enable physicians to access real-time information about their patients' cardiac health and certain vital signs on their smartphones, tablets, or PCs. The cardiac monitoring devices will be distributed in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Remote healthcare monitoring systems, powered by Vodafone's global "machine-to-machine" (M2M) technology, will also allow patients using Boston Scientific's cardiac monitoring devices to send medical information to their doctors without having to leave their homes.

Telecommunications providers have increasingly been leveraging their technology in the healthcare market, offering cloud computing, wireless communications and other services as they help providers manage patient data. In this case, the providers can remotely access patient information and quickly respond to early signs of deterioration in their patients' cardiac condition, which is closely tracked by Boston Scientific's cardiac monitoring devices.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

The announcement follows a similar deal struck with AT&T in February, in which Boston Scientific said it plans to embed AT&T wireless technology in its LATITUDE Patient Management system, which will be utilized in the company's future generations of pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators and pacemakers (CRT-Ds and CRT-Ps).

Under the agreement with AT&T, Boston Scientific will have the capability to transmit implantable cardiac device data to physicians and other healthcare providers in North America from most locations without the need for landline-based technology. The system will be able to detect clinical events between scheduled visits and send relevant data directly to a highly secure website that can be accessed by physicians.

"Boston Scientific's moves to work with Vodafone and AT&T signals its awareness that, in connected health, it is not just the device--the network matters. The best device in the world is useless if the network fails," Irene Berlinsky, IDC's senior research analyst for multiplay services, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Berlinsky said Boston Scientific could have chosen to have its devices transmit data over the patient's home Internet connection, but chose to partner with a mobile operator instead.

"Bypassing the home connection altogether means transmission will always work in areas where AT&T's wireless network coverage is strong, but run into issues where it is not. Meanwhile, the partnership with Vodafone is a move to ensure the success of machine-to-machine (M2M) patient data transmission," Berlinsky observed.

The company noted that the next generation of its cardiac devices will be subject to the necessary U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals. In the meantime it's pushing ahead with plans to make sure that these devices are ready for a healthcare IT market that is increasingly dependent on wireless connectivity.

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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