Each year in Canada, more than 25,000 pacemakers and internal defibrillators are implanted, according to the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. For the patients who receive these devices, it’s a procedure that potentially saves lives and provides relief from symptoms associated with arrhythmia and symptomatic heart block. Pacemakers also mean being able to do the things that make life worth living – spending time with family and friends, enjoying walks in nature, and pursuing interests and hobbies.
Not all pacemakers are the same. Since one was implanted in the first human patient in 1958, technological advancements have been significant since that time and each new development has had a direct impact on patient outcomes and quality of life. In 1969, pacemakers took a giant leap forward at the same time man first landed on the moon with the invention of the lithium battery, which made the devices last longer. Fast forward to 2002 with the launch of the world’s first remote cardiac monitoring system, embraced by an estimated two million patients worldwide.
Then in 2015, there was more ground-breaking news – the introduction of an app-enabled pacemaker. It was truly game-changing for patients, including the 200,000 Canadians who are diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia each year. Clinicians were able to monitor patients remotely. The very latest version gives those with pacemakers the ability to transmit data from the device wirelessly with just a smartphone or tablet via the free downloadable app. It allows patients to view their own data, see transmission history, battery information, plus updates on physical activity and vitals tracking. It also has educational material for easy reference.
Research released in May 2020 also showed that advanced technology meant a significant reduction in complications, earlier detection and evaluation of patient clinical and device-related events, and was associated with improved long-term survival. The study also showed that an app-enabled pacemaker was able to reduce the number of in-person clinic visits with no-change in patient safety.1
Older versions of a pacemaker required more frequent doctor appointments so the data could be downloaded and the device checked for performance and battery life. These visits were time-consuming, inconvenient and expensive for the healthcare system. Newer technology has allowed contact between patients, healthcare professionals and caregivers to be limited, especially crucial as the COVID crisis continues to evolve. Reducing exposure to getting or spreading the coronavirus (as well as other types of viruses and bacteria) helps provide cardiac patients and caregivers with peace of mind.
There is still a myriad of old myths that persist about life as a pacemaker recipient…Those are outdated ideas that are not true
This underscores a key benefit of this latest news in pacemaker technology – quality of life for patients. They can now spend less time worrying about how their hearts are functioning and spend more time on living well. An app-enabled pacemaker can send data to their doctors from virtually anywhere at any time with minimal disruption to a patient’s day-to-day activities, whether it’s making dinner for a spouse or birdwatching in a park. Advanced pacemaker technology enables freedom and provides the confidence to live fully.
For those newly diagnosed with a heart issue, the prospect of getting a pacemaker may be concerning. There is still a myriad of old myths that persist about life as a pacemaker recipient, including beliefs that you aren’t able to travel, use a microwave, cell phone, or that the device means slowing down and being limited in what you are able to do. Those are outdated ideas that are not true.
In discussions with a cardiac specialist, patients learn that new app-enabled pacemakers open up opportunities, not close them, and also that heart issues can be managed effectively, especially given the newest technology available in Canada. Asking questions and getting the most current information available is crucial for making informed decisions to suit your individual needs, medical situation, and lifestyle. Patients that already have pacemakers and are looking to update their current devices should also have those conversations with their healthcare teams to learn more.
App-enabled pacemakers aren’t meant to replace visits with physicians. Not at all. In fact, the data gathered will help improve interactions between clinicians and patients. When in-person appointments do happen, the information gathered can serve as useful talking points and a gateway to further education and create better patient outcomes. The devices are indicative of the smart medicine trend seen now – one that empowers patients and helps them manage their heart condition more effectively.
Presented through a sponsorship from Medtronic Canada.