Clinicians have been able to remotely monitor pacemakers for years as a result of rapid developments in near-field and remote wireless technologies. However, until now, patients needed to check in with their healthcare provider to determine how much battery life their devices had left and to find out the relationship between their physical activities and heart packing.

Medtronic has just debuted an app which lets heart patients monitor their pacemakers independently, which represents a big leap forward for implantable and wearable medical technologies. The app makes certain pacemaker data easily accessible to patients including transmission success history, pacemaker battery information, answers to common questions about living with a pacemaker, and updates on physical activity. Data collected by the pacemaker is encrypted and sent to an app, providing both patients and healthcare professionals with timely alerts on clinically-relevant patient events.

This is a particularly significant development in light of the large amount of pacemaker users, estimated as three million worldwide by the American Heart Association. “For the first time, pacemakers have the ability to communicate securely and directly with technology that patients use every day like smartphones and tablets,” says Aisha Barry, vice-president of Medtronic. “This brings the benefits of remote monitoring seamlessly into patients’ lives, potentially leading to enhanced and more efficient patient engagement with their physicians.”

There are a couple of caveats, however. Firstly, the app only works with Medtronic’s BlueSync-enabled pacemakers. Secondly, the technology is not intended to replace interaction with healthcare professionals but instead, improve the quality. It will also help to avoid unnecessary communication as patients will be better informed about their current health status. With the continual face-paced development of technological capabilities, future medical devices and the software supporting them are set to become increasingly powerful, providing greater insights for patients and healthcare professionals alike.