Reinventing patient monitors

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | May 13, 2013
From the May 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

It may be a bit premature to start chucking regular patient monitors out the window. But that doesn’t mean manufacturers aren’t paying close attention to these startups. Dr. Albert reports that his company has already been contacted by all the major players in the industry.

And Melanie Varin, general manager of USA sales & marketing and diagnostic cardiology at GE Healthcare, confirms that some tech startups are currently in dialogue with GE to use its proprietary algorithms to improve their products. Several other manufacturers hinted that they may be strongly receptive in the future to acquisitions and partnerships with such firms, though they were reluctant to publicly disclose any information beyond that.

Going mobile
Still, there’s no question that the consumer electronics explosion is driving a major paradigm shift in health care manufacturing. Advances in semiconductor technology driven by smartphone applications are enabling medical devices to become increasingly miniaturized, portable and battery-powered.

The U.S. market for advanced wireless patient monitoring systems more than doubled from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion in 2011, according to a new report from Kalorama Information. Most manufacturers now offer smartphone-sized wearable patient monitors with wireless functionality.

Furthermore, consumer expectations are rapidly evolving when it comes to data access. “No one wants to walk around looking for a paper file anymore. Clinicians expect to have relevant patient data brought to them — whether at the bedside, offsite, on a PC or on a handheld device,” says Sam E. Larson, vice president of marketing, North America at Dräger Medical.

GE’s Varin agrees, citing mobility as the biggest trend of the year: “Mobility is about getting the right information
at the right location at the right time. It’s going to give health care providers a lot more freedom to practice whenever and wherever, and maybe even help them with work-life balance.”

Collaborating with a tech firm called Airstrip Technologies, GE now powers Airstrip Cardiology, an app that serves up all the data acquired on a GE ECG monitor in a smartphone format. The app enables physicians to get the same 12-grade cardiology that they’d expect to see if they were reviewing it at the ECG machine itself or at the ECG management system.

Keep it simple, stupid
The big push around EMR integration in hospitals has also had a drastic impact on the patient monitor sector, with relationships between EMR and patient monitor firms becoming increasingly interdependent. In fact, manufacturers report that health IT departments at hospitals have much more of a say in patient monitor purchasing decisions than they did just three years ago.

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