Medtronic has received FDA clearance for a mobile app that allows patients to remotely forward data from their pacemakers with their physicians. The app is paired with a device, the MyCareLink Smart Monitor. The Monitor reads data from the pacemaker and transmits it via Bluetooth to the patient's personal smartphone or tablet. The data, however, remains a black box to the patient who is unable to view it via the app.
"The use of smart technology continues to grow among people of all ages, and especially among people over 65 which is the age range of the majority of our pacemaker patients," Darrell Johnson, vice president and general manager of the Connected Care business in the Cardiac and Vascular Group at Medtronic, said in a statement. "As a leader in remote cardiac monitoring, Medtronic is committed to providing cardiac patients with the latest technology to improve their health and make their lives easier, while helping to reduce the costs of healthcare. The MyCareLink Smart Monitor is just the first of many innovative solutions we are developing that leverage smart technology to increase patient engagement."
As mentioned above, patients don't actually have access to their own pacemaker data through the app; they just gain the ability to manage how it's shared with providers. Medtronic asserts that this will improve treatment time for problems detected in the data, allow people with pacemakers to avoid some doctor visits, and potentially increase patient survival rates.
Patients can also create an account online to manage their data transmission, see when they last sent pacemaker data, and sign up for email or text message reminders to transmit data regularly and confirmation when the data is sent.
Smartphone connectivity has been a focus for Medtronic across the business recently. Just a few months ago the company's diabetes division launched its MiniMed Connect system, which allows people with diabetes who use both a Medtronic continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and a Medtronic insulin pump to see data from both device on their smartphone, and send it to their caregiver. An app for those with just the CGM, called Medtronic Guardian Mobile, is still in the works.
The fact that the mobile app doesn't actually facilitate patient access to their own data is interesting in light of the history that Medtronic has in e-patient circles. Patient advocate Hugo Campos doesn't have a Medtronic pacemaker, but an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. He's petitioned the company for many years to make the data from the device available to him, but has had only mixed success. Just recently, with the help of Harvard’s Cyberlaw Clinic, Campos, and three other patient researchers got a three-year exception to the copyright protections that would have kept them from accessing data from their medical devices, including Campos’s implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.