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Medtronic Moves Toward Remote Patient Management

With FDA approval of its new, Web-connected implantable cardiac device and a strategic acquisition of a database maker, Medtronic is trying to make remote, real-time patient care a reality.

InformationWeek Staff

January 3, 2002

2 Min Read

The ability of physicians to use the Internet for patient management took a step forward this week. The Food and Drug Administration approved an implantable cardiac device produced by Medtronic Inc. that will allow cardiology patients to constantly monitor their heart and send data to a secure Web site. Separately, Medtronic on Thursday acquired Paceart, a company that makes in-clinic databases for collecting information from implantable devices, from GE Medical Systems Information Technologies. Terms of the acquisition were not divulged.

Chris O'Connell, VP and general manager of Medtronic's patient-management division, says the two developments support the company's strategy of providing tools for managing patients and delivering what he calls "data-guided care." O'Connell says the Paceart acquisition gives Medtronic additional tools its customers use, and the FDA approval of the Medtronic CareLink Monitor--which he says was only a PowerPoint presentation a year ago--opens the door for physicians to make "medical therapy treatments on the fly." He says Medtronic is rolling out the CareLink Network to its first 10 clinics this month.

Data collected by the CareLink Monitor is downloaded via a small antenna held over the implant and sent over a standard Internet connection to the secure CareLink Network. Medtronic is deploying the network as a service for physicians and patients that supports its installed base of implanted devices.

Albert Rocchini, director of pediatric cardiology at the University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, foresees the CareLink Monitor as most useful in treating patients with intermittent conditions--such as a heart arrhythmia--that may not show up once a patient comes in for an office visit. In particular, says Rocchini, it could help physicians monitor those patients' reactions to medications. While the number of patients suffering from difficult-to-diagnose ailments isn't high, Rocchini says he wouldn't hesitate to use the device with those patients.

But analyst Mark Anderson, CEO of medical technology consulting firm AC Group, says the device's potential goes far beyond arrhythmia patients. Anderson says that it could make the process of providing treatment more efficient by getting patient data to the physician quicker, sometimes preventing patients from having to undergo routine testing upon arrival at a doctor's office. Anderson says he expects to see more remote-monitoring devices introduced over the coming months and years. "Getting data in a real-time manner to physicians is what's needed."

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