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Monitoring children's hearts remotely

In October 2009 the Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Service (QPCS) at Mater Children’s Hospital registered Australia’s first paediatric cardiac patient in a remote monitoring system that allows patients with implanted cardiac monitoring devices to be examined over the internet.

The technology, dubbed the Medtronic CareLink® Network, enables patients to electronically transmit data from their implanted cardiac device (such as pacemakers, implantable cardiac defibrillators and implanted electrocardiography monitoring devices) to a secure internet site that can be accessed by the QPCS pacemaker service.

Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Jim Morwood said the system will potentially reduce the need for on-site checks of the patient’s device from the usual four times a year down to one.

“This is obviously of greatest advantage for our remote patients whom we care for from as far away as North Queensland, though it also provides more flexibility for all of our pacemaker patient families,” he said.

“Patients requiring changes in the settings of their device will still need to be seen in clinic but this is not required at the majority of pacemaker checks.”

Ryan Mitchell with the Carelink system

Ryan Mitchell

For seven year-old patient, Ryan Mitchell, CareLink has taken his level of care beyond the walls of Mater Children’s Hospital and opened up a new way for diagnosis, ongoing monitoring and treatment without him always having to leave his hometown of Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Ryan has been successfully using the system and his mother Denise, is seeing the benefits.

“Ryan is an active boy so you can imagine how he felt about frequent, long trips to the doctor. Now, he can have check-ups without the time and expense of long distance travel, it gives me peace of mind that expert care is only a phone call away and it gives Ryan back his freedom,” she said.

Currently around one third of QPCS pacemaker patients are able to access the remote monitoring system.

“However, as time progresses the aim will be to have the vast majority of patients using this service,” Dr Morwood finished.

How it works

Whether at home, work, or travelling, patients simply hold a small and portable antenna over their device, and information on how their heart and device are working is downloaded into the Medtronic CareLink® Monitor. This information is then sent through a telephone line to a secure internet site and the patient’s doctor is notified via SMS or email that information from the patient has been sent for their review. The physician then accesses their patients’ data by logging onto the secure website, and may make adjustments to their patient’s medication or prescribe additional therapy without needing to see the patient in person.

 

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