Rethinking Healthcare

Inside the wireless pacemaker

Inside the wireless pacemaker

Posting in Technology

The new Accent and Anthem RF pacemakers from St. Jude Medical do have radios and the radios can report your ongoing condition so that doctor visits are easier and more thorough. But this is not coffee shop WiFi.

A WiFi pacemaker?

Not really. But pretty cool nonetheless.

The new Accent and Anthem RF pacemakers from St. Jude Medical do have radios and the radios can report your ongoing condition so that doctor visits are easier and more thorough.

But this is not coffee shop WiFi.

Instead, what St. Jude calls InvisiLink Wireless Telemetry runs in what is called the Medical Implant Communication Frequency (MICS) band, 3 MHz of frequency just north of 400 MHz. (WiFi bands are at 2.4 GHz and around 5.5 GHz.)

The longer the wave, the further it can travel. Even though these are very low power waves, then, creating very small magnetic fields, these radios can run months without wearing down the battery.

They use "wake-up" and "sleep" technology to deliver regular data dumps from within 2 meters of a base station. The base station then uses St. Jude's Merlin.Net network to deliver this data to a doctor, and also supports simple alerts for the patient.

In practice, this means the base station sits by the patient's bed, and delivers most reports as the patient awakes, which is the dangerous time for heart patients. (Most heart attacks come in the morning.) The reports are compiled by the physician's office, who can go over routine alerts during check-ups.

It's not WiFi, but in some ways it's better.

There are 10 channels in the MICS band, and interference should thus be minimal, even in a nursing home or hospital. The tiny form-factor means this radio can even be mounted inside a camera that a patient swallows, making it possible to examine the whole digestive tract without even a colonoscopy.

MICS, then, is meant for active monitoring of patients who are living at home or in a controlled setting. What has yet to be approved are radios that can monitor active people, glucose monitors and heart monitors that are worn and report in on cellular or WiFi frequencies only when necessary.

Those would be real killer apps.

Share this

Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure