Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An interface with heart

“One of the biggest things to happen in medicine in the next 20 years will be learning how to remotely monitor patients with chronic diseases. Management of heart failure patients is one of the biggest consumers of today’s health care dollars,” said Stephen Oesterle, a cardiologist and senior vice president for medicine and technology at Medtronic.

So engineers and doctors are testing a pulmonary pressure sensor that lives in an outflow ventricle and communicates wirelessly to a laptop or PC linked to a remote hospital. Medtronic has such a system, called Chronicle, now in regulatory trials and hopes to release it as a product in 2007.

Once such a heart monitor is perfected, engineers could build variations of it to monitor severe forms of diabetes, hypertension and neurological disorders, said Oesterle, speaking to a small handful of us in gathered at an end-of-the-day session at the Health Care Ventures conference in Redwood City today.

Making the wireless link work is not a big problem, Oesterle said. The Medical Implant Communications Service standard set back in 1999 provides the spectrum and design guidance needed.

The bigger issues are making that link secure and free from interference. Those issues are being worked out by the Continua Health Alliance, an ad hoc group of medical and electronics companies formed about a year ago.

“The least of our worries is MICS. The problem is security. You don’t want an implant reprogrammed by a microwave oven or a neighbor who’s angry,” said Oesterle. --rbm

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