In our increasingly connected world, it may come as no surprise to learn that patients are leveraging technology to become more engaged in their treatment plans and are reaping the benefits of improved outcomes. Consumers have the ability to track data from blood-glucose levels to steps taken and now, even the data transmitted by their implantable cardiac devices.
Implantable devices like pacemakers and defibrillators are medical devices that generate electrical impulses delivered by electrodes to cause the heart muscle chambers to contract and therefore pump blood to the body. They are also used to prevent or correct an arrhythmia – a heartbeat that is uneven, too slow, or too fast. The pacemaker can be thought of as the steady hand guiding your heart through each day, while the defibrillator is the guardian angel standing ready to keep you safe if your heartbeat becomes dangerously irregular or stops. Pacemakers and defibrillators can be implanted for a variety of reasons, but are commonly used in patients with arrhythmia, both slow and fast, or heart failure. Though millions of patients have pacemakers and defibrillators, many lack a basic understanding of the device they have or how it functions.
Earning its place amid other new innovative medical technology are Bluetooth-enabled pacemaker devices to remedy this issue of disconnection between patients and their cardiac treatment. Used in conjunction with a mobile app, these connected devices are allowing patients greater insight into the data their doctor sees. The tech provides patients information related to transmission success history, battery longevity, vital tracking, and physical activity as well as access to device information (implant date, model number, etc.), FAQs, a symptom journal to share during in-office visits, and other educational resources. Designed to securely and wirelessly send device data to the patient’s network via smart technology, the connected pacemakers and their smartphone application eliminate the need for a dedicated bedside monitor or other remote monitoring hardware. Patients, therefore, benefit from increased freedom, knowing that their pacemaker can connect with their clinic from their mobile device wherever they may be.
Wireless pacemaker transmission has been a theme in cardiac care for several years, but has always involved additional monitoring equipment that usually resides in the patient’s bedroom and transmits data to the secured network for a physician to review. Patients have had no visibility into the process and no access to the data from their device. For the first time, pacemakers have the ability to communicate securely and directly with the technology that patients use every day like smartphones and tablets. This interaction brings the benefits of remote monitoring seamlessly into patients' lives, potentially leading to enhanced and more efficient patient engagement with their physicians. The easy access to information is changing the way patients track, understand, and take interest in their heart health.
Results published May 2020 from a study of the technology demonstrated that patients who used the mobile app to which the pacemaker transmits were more likely to adhere to their pacemaker remote monitoring schedule than patients who used traditional bedside monitors. The study found that patients using the technology successfully completed 94.6% of scheduled transmissions, which was superior to all three bedside monitor control groups (whose results ranged from 56.3% to 87.1%).
Keeping cardiac patients engaged and informed, new smartphone-connected pacemakers and their mobile tracking apps are bringing patients into the care equation. With less in-person visits in this time of social distance, the connectedness this innovation brings is significant. But its implications go beyond COVID-19 as clinicians continue to leverage state-of-the-art technology to provide the most advanced care.