Messages from the heart – pacemakers send emails to physicians
Dr.-Ing. Hans-Jürgen Wildau BIOTRONIK SE & Co. KG, Berlin
Implants allow many, frequently older, people with heart problems to lead normal lives again. Yet short-term changes in health status or secondary conditions can occur. How can the physician detect them in time?
Under the direction of Dr. Hans-Jürgen Wildau BIOTRONIK has developed a technology that is unique worldwide for this purpose that uses automatic communication between a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator (ICD) and a data center. As Vice President Health Services, Dr. Wildau is responsible for research, development, operations and new business development in the area of telemonitoring and sensor systems at the medical device company BIOTRONIK in Berlin.
A main element of the communicative Home Monitoring system is an antenna in the head of a pacemaker or ICD. It is so small that it can be easily integrated in the implant. Its power consumption is minimal – the transmitter module only uses around one-hundredth of the battery capacity. The pacemaker regularly records and stores technical data and patient health values. In the past, the physician was only able to view and interpret this data when the patient visited his offices. The antenna in comparison transmits measured values daily to a receiver worn on a belt or located in the patient’s home. It transmits the information on the pacemaker by cellular phone network to a computer center where it is evaluated by software.
What is so interesting about the technology is that the attending physician can view patient data at any time and from any location on a protected website. Data is consolidated and clearly presented. Both long-term trends as well as recent events can be identified. In this way, the physician can keep track of therapy progress at all times. If the system registers unusual changes indicating deterioration in patient health, it immediately alerts the physician via SMS, email or fax. This is reassuring for the heart patient – and also lowers the costs of healthcare. A number of routine in-office calls to the doctor are no longer necessary while efficient and targeted treatment is possible as needed.
BIOTRONIK SE & Co. KG was founded over 40 years ago by Prof. Dr. Max Schaldach, the inventor of the first German pacemaker. The innovative Home Monitoring system from BIOTRONIK is already in use in 55 countries. Over 3.500 clinics and hospitals worldwide use it for medical remote monitoring of around 200,000 patients with cardiac implants. The system is also to be used in future applications to monitor blood pressure. This means additional jobs – in addition to the 100 jobs BIOTRONIK has already created thanks to Home Monitoring in Germany alone.