Doctor will receive data before patient with pacemaker realises abnormality

Imagine a device that could talk to your heart and your doctor. Joy has one such device that does just that: captures data from the pacemaker implanted in her and sends it to her doctor.

When Joy was discharged from hospital, she was given an odd-shaped laptop device with a router. Thanks to this device, all she has to do is to sit comfortably at home, within five metres of the device.

The device picks up data from her pacemaker and transmits it to her doctor, senior consultant electrophysiologist, at Madras Medical Mission, Ulhas Pandurangi. “It’s most certainly a good thing for me. I live in the other corner of the city (to the hospital). I’d have to spend a whole day to go in for a consultation,” says the elderly woman.

Remote monitoring is probably the most innovative and cost-effective modality of heart failure therapy so far, Dr. Pandurangi says. “It obviates the need for a physical examination – the consequent travel and time taken for it. Persons who have undergone surgery might not be up to all this effort.” The mini computer given to a patient is capable of transmitting information about the heart, and picking up abnormalities even before the patient begins to feel the effects.

The device communicates via a SIM card which picks up the mobile service available in the area, secures data and sends it to a server in the Netherlands. This is then sent to Dr. Pandurangi’s office in Mogappair in any form he wishes to receive – mail, text message, alerts via a mobile application or voice mail. To ensure that this does not make his work even more complex than it is, he has a team of personnel working on it. Red alerts, triggered in a crisis, are sent to him for immediate attention.

Patients feel a lot more secure all the time, Dr. Pandurangi adds. The patient can travel and still be connected to the doctor, if he just carries his device around. A representative of the manufacturer of the device (CareLink), Medtronic, informs that there are about 10 patients in the country with assistive gadget to help read and send data from their implantable device.

The technology itself is about 10 years old, but has only just come into the country.

It costs between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 1.5 lakh, depending on the implant the patient has. The mobile service charges are free for the patient. “At the moment, the constraint is that this gadget can be used only along with Medtronic’s implants. But we hope more manufacturers will come in and the scene becomes competitive, so that the patient benefits.”

Ajit Mullasri, director, Cardiology, MMM, says from the point of view of scientific research, data from these devices might also indicate the factors that might precipitate problems in patients with heart failure.

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