In March 2020, cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Benedict Glover, director of arrhythmia services in Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Program, implanted a medical device into a patient to help control his heart function. But instead of asking the man to return for a three- or six-month checkup, Dr. Glover signed him up for a new service: remote device monitoring.
This method of community-based care allows heart specialists to keep tabs on implantable medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators – no physical clinic appointment required.
For the patient, that decision was a godsend. He had just driven almost three days with a friend from his home outside Thunder Bay, Ont. Returning for frequent follow-ups would have been a challenge.
“We forget sometimes how massive Ontario is and that we get referrals from all over the province,” says Dr. Glover. “A lot of follow-ups can be done remotely.”
Even heart patients in Toronto can benefit. With remote monitoring, patients connect their pacemaker or defibrillator via Bluetooth to a small receiver in their home that downloads real-time, encrypted data and transmits it to Dr. Glover’s clinic. Staff check that information each morning, looking for abnormalities.
This ongoing diagnostic monitoring is more likely to lead to earlier interventions, Dr. Glover says. It can also mean fewer visits to the emergency department.
“The world is changing, and we are all moving to more remote systems for patients,” he says. “The more data we can get, the better.”