The joint venture between Orange and medical device manufacturer Sorin has been well publicized. However at the Orange Business Live event in Amsterdam last week, I learned a lot more about this fascinating project and how it can save lives of cardiac disease sufferers.
Sorin is a specialist developer in treatments for cardiovascular disorders, with over 1 million patients treated with their equipment: with Orange, they have developed an M2M remote monitoring solution for cardiac patients.
Here's some of the facts about heart failure and the current treatments
- In 2005, almost 14 million Europeans suffered heart failure; by 2020 it will be 30 million. The causes are well known - poor diet, obesity, sedentary lives - so it's a straightforward extrapolation.
- Heart failure is the biggest cause of hospitalization for under 65's, accounting for 2% of the UK's National Health Service (NHS) budget, and more than $35 billion in costs in the USA.
- But the 5 year survival rate is just 25% in men and 38% in women.
- Cardiac resynchronization therapy has been demonstrated as effective but there are still 30% of non-responders, and 5-10% implantation failure. Standalone CRT has high-follow up costs per patient as they need to regularly attend checkups.
How a defibrillator works
A defibrillator has four leads into the heart which detect fibrillations. If the heart stops, the defibrillator, a tiny device located just above the pectoral muscles, sends an electrical shock through the leads to spark the heart back into life. The device detects, records and analyzes fibrillations in order to deliver the shock based on prior clinical thresholds recorded in the device by the physician. The defibrillator is a tiny computer, with an embedded memory, and a battery life of 10 years.
Using this technology, there are two interlinked drawbacks. The shock only comes when the patient dies, and the patient has to regularly attend hospital for checkups.
Remote monitoring solution
The new remote monitoring solution developed with Orange helps to anticipate heart failure, rather than just responding to it. The pacemaker device sends its data by RF to a collector in the home. The collector in turn relays the data by PSTN or GPRS to massive data centres, with strong firewalls, managed by Orange. Physcians log into the secure heart monitoring web site and can see a series of flags and alarms, which over time build up a more personal profile of the likelihood of heart failure.
This sounds straightforward, but there have been some key issues concerning patient privacy, ensuring the service is life or death resilient, a simple interface that doctors can use to monitor and then update the defibrillator device. This is what Orange has brought to the table: secure and resilient hosting, privacy, global helpdesk, assistance with developing the web app, and of course global communications integration.
The project started two years ago, and is almost ready to go into clinical testing, in time for a commercial launch next year.
I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.