ONLINE MONITORING: New System Tracks Chronically Ill
Physicians soon may have a new weapon to help them monitor patients with congestive heart failure -- the Internet. Using the experimental Chronicle monitoring system -- developed by Medtronic Inc. -- doctors can track a patient's vital signs through a tiny monitor placed in the patient's heart. After a surgeon threads the device into the heart, a patient can sit in front of a wireless transmitter in the doctor's office that sends information regarding blood pressure and other disease indicators to a computer for diagnosis. While the device requires a weekly physician visit, Medtronic hopes to send at-home transmitters to patients this spring, giving doctors "house call" capabilities via the Internet. Currently, 120 patients are participating in the experiment. Some physicians are using a simpler version of online monitoring called the Health Buddy. That system allows physicians to monitor diabetics' blood sugar online. Dr. Richard Miller, director of the Mercy Heart Institute, said, "This is the future for chronic disease management -- heart failure, diabetes, asthma." Miller, who currently uses the Health Buddy system, called it a "baby step" in online monitoring. He noted that patients "love it. They feel as though they're in touch with a caregiver on a daily basis." If the Chronicle system is successful in identifying warning signs and keeping patients out of the hospital, Medtronic hopes to apply for FDA approval in two years ( AP/San Jose Mercury News, 2/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.