Conference Coverage

Smart phones boosted compliance for cardiac device data transmission



A phone, an app, and the next generation of implanted cardiac device data signaling produced an unprecedented level of data transmission compliance in a single-arm, multicenter, pilot study with 245 patients, adding momentum to the expanding penetration of personal smart devices into cardiac electrophysiology.

Dr. Nassir F. Marrouche, professor of medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans

Dr. Nassir F. Marrouche

During 12-month follow-up, the 245 patients who received either a medically indicated pacemaker or cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)–pacemaker equipped with Bluetooth remote transmission capability had successful data transfer to their clinicians for 95% of their scheduled data uploads while using a personal phone or tablet as the link between their heart implant and the Internet. This rate significantly surpassed the transmission-success rates tallied by traditional, bedside transmitters in historical control groups, Khaldoun G. Tarakji, MD, said at the annual scientific sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society, held online because of COVID-19.

A related analysis by Dr. Tarakji and colleagues of 811 patients from real-world practice who received similar implanted cardiac devices with the same remote-transmission capability showed a 93% rate of successful data transfers via smart devices.

In contrast, historical performance showed a 77% success rate in matched patients drawn from a pool of more than 69,000 people in routine care who had received a pacemaker or CRT-pacemaker that automatically transmitted to a bedside monitor. Historical transmission success among matched patients from a pool of more than 128,000 routine-care patients with similar implants who used a wand to interrogate their implants before the attached monitor transmitted their data had a 56% rate of successful transmissions.

Dr. Khaldoun G. Tarakji, cardiac electrophysiologist, Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Khaldoun G. Tarakji

Cardiac device signals that flow directly into a patient’s phone or pad and then relay automatically via an app to the clinic “are clearly much easier,” than the methods now used, observed Dr. Tarakji, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “It is truly as seamless as possible. Patients don’t really need to do anything,” he said during a press briefing. The key is that most patients tend to keep their smart devices, especially their phones, near them all the time, which minimizes the chance that the implanted cardiac device might try to file a report when the patient is not positioned near the device that’s facilitating transmission. When patients use conventional, bedside transmitters they can forget to bring them on trips, while many fewer fail to take their phone. Another advantage is that the link between a phone and a cardiac implant can be started in the clinic once the patient downloads an app. Bedside units need home setup, and “some patients never even get theirs out of the box,” Dr. Tarakji lamented.

Another feature of handheld device transmissions that run off an app is that the app can display clinical metrics, activity, device performance, and transmission history, as well as educational information. All of these features can enhance patient engagement with their implanted device, their arrhythmia, and their health status. Bedside units often give patients little feedback, and they don’t display clinical data. “The real challenge for clinicians is what data you let patients see. That’s complicated,” Dr. Tarakji said.

“This study was designed to see whether the technology works. The next step is to study how it affects risk-factor modification” or other outcomes. “There are many opportunities” to explore with this new data transmission and processing capability, he concluded.

The BlueSync Field Evaluation study enrolled patients at 20 centers in the United States, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom during 2018, and the 245 patients who received a BlueSync device and were included in the analysis sent at least one of their scheduled data transmissions during their 12 months of follow-up. Participants were eligible if they were willing to use their own smart phone or pad that could interact with their cardiac implant, and included both first-time implant recipients as well as some patients who received replacement units.

Personal device–based data transmission from cardiac implants “will no doubt change the way we manage patients,” commented Nassir F. Marrouche, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist and professor of medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, and a designated discussant for the report. “Every implanted cardiac device should be able to connect with a phone, which can improve adoption and adherence,” he said.

Dr. Roderick Tung, director of cardiac electrophysiology, University of Chicago

Dr. Roderick Tung

But the study has several limitations for interpreting the implications of the findings, starting with its limited size and single-arm design, noted a second discussant, Roderick Tung, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at the University of Chicago. Another issue is the generalizability of the findings, which are likely biased by involving only patients who own a smart phone or tablet and may be more likely to transmit their data regardless of the means. And comparing transmission success in a prospective study with rates that occurred during real-world, routine practice could have a Hawthorne effect bias, where people under study behave differently than they do in everyday life. But that effect may be mitigated by confirmatory findings from a real-world group that also used smart-device transmission included in the report. Despite these caveats, it’s valuable to develop new ways of improving data collection from cardiac devices, Dr. Tung said.

The BlueSync Field Evaluation study was sponsored by Medtronic, the company that markets Bluetooth-enabled cardiac devices. Dr. Tarakji has been a consultant to Medtronic, and also to AliveCor, Boston Scientific, and Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Marrouche has been a consultant to Medtronic as well as to Biosense Webster, Biotronik, Cardiac Design, and Preventice, and he has received research funding from Abbott, Biosense Webster, Boston Scientific, and GE Healthcare. Dr. Tung has been a speaker on behalf of Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Biosense Webster.

SOURCE: Tarakji KG. Heart Rhythm 2020, Abstract D-LBCT04-01.

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