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When someone with an implanted cardiac care device visits a hospital for emergency care, that care isn't instantaneous – the device must first be checked to make sure that it's functioning properly. On average, that wait can take 84 minutes.
A lot of bad things can happen while that patient is waiting. And with more than 3 million people in the United States fitted with pacemakers, CRT devices, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and implantable cardiac monitors (ICMs), that's a significant population to keep waiting.
Medtronic, the Minneapolis-based developer of medical devices, is targeting that wasted time with the launch of the CareLink Express Service, a remote monitoring system that enables healthcare facilities to more quickly determine the status of Medtronic devices. The company has piloted the system in 55 sites over the past six months and is set to roll it out nationally.
"Usually patients will hop in the car and go to the emergency room, where doctors can't do anything until they know if the (device) is working properly," says Elizabeth Hoff, general manager of Medtronic's cardiac connected care business. "They end up sitting and waiting (while a certified Medtronic representative is summoned to the facility to check the device) when they could be receiving treatment."
"Ninety-five percent of the time, that device is functioning properly, so that time spent waiting for it to be checked is really wasted time," she adds.
According to Hoff, for healthcare facilities using CareLink Express – basically, a monitor "that can sit on the floor and essentially read any Medtronic device in the building" – that wait time is reduced to less than 15 minutes. In that time, the monitor "interrogates" the Medtronic device and transmits the data via page or e-mail to a certified Medtronic technician, who reviews the data, then notifies the provider.
Among the providers evaluating CareLink Express is Heywood Hospital in Gardner, Mass.
"Incorporating CareLink Express into our hospital has enabled us to provide better service to our cardiac device patients by providing them faster access to care, while improving our patient flow and decreasing costs related to delays that occur while waiting for device checks to be completed," said Tina Santos, the hospital's vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer, in a press release issued by Medtronic. "This new technology has the potential to significantly impact our efforts to reduce costs in our emergency departments and operating rooms."
Hoff says the Care Link system isn't evaluating vital signs from the device, just making sure that the device is functioning properly. It's an important step in the process, she points out, as the device has to be checked out so that the data it collects is accurate.
"In line with Medtronic's stated goal of offering products and services that provide enhanced economic value to hospitals and clinicians, our data shows that CareLink Express reduces burdens on physicians and hospitals by increasing workflow efficiency and reducing operating costs," added Pat Mackin, Medtronic's senior vice president and president of the company's cardiac rhythm disease management business. "These efficiencies demonstrate that quality of care and cost reduction can work hand-in-hand; it's not necessary to diminish patient care in order to reduce healthcare costs."
Hoff says CareLink Express, and the CareLink platform on which it rests, are examples of a new wave of healthcare information technology, in which more data is being collected at the point of care and distributed to the right caregivers in real-time for quicker, more accurate clinical diagnoses.
"Traditional (implantable) devices have been therapeutic – you put them in and you forget about them," she says. "Now, we're basically putting computers in patients' bodies, and managing them is completely different."
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