Nov 19, 2020

Smartphone-Connected Heart Devices Among Top Innovations for 2021

Medtronic leads in “breakthrough” technologies.

mobile device
Smartphone-connected pacemaker devices ranked number three on the Cleveland Clinic’s list of Top Innovations for 2021.

Pacemakers and other implanted heart devices that connect to a patient’s mobile device are among the most impressive “breakthrough” healthcare technologies for 2021, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic ranked “smartphone-connected pacemaker devices” number three on its annual Top 10 Medical Innovations for 2021 list. “These connected devices allow patients greater insight into the health data from the pacemakers and transmit the health information to their physicians,” wrote the judges.

“Medtronic is an industry leader in this space,” said Rob Kowal, MD, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer in the Cardiac Rhythm and Heart Failure (CRHF) business at Medtronic. “We are one of few that offers as broad a variety of smartphone compatible implanted heart devices.”

“Connectivity Made All the Difference”

Typically, remote monitoring requires patients to connect to a home-based monitor, usually at their bedside, to transmit data from their implanted heart device to their doctor or clinic. Today, smartphone-connected devices can automatically send data from anywhere, using an app, as long as there is a cellular or internet connection.

Evidence is growing that such connectivity can save lives.

“We know of a patient who felt dizzy while mowing the lawn with his phone in his pocket,” Kowal said. “When he sat in his living room to rest, he received a call from his clinic. His implanted device had alerted his medical providers to a problem and they made immediate plans to correct the issue. With a traditional system, such information would have required him being near his bedside monitor and likely delay in his care. Smartphone connectivity made all the difference.”

Rob Kowal
Rob Kowal, MD, Medtronic VP Medical Affairs and CMO for CRHF

The evidence is more than anecdotal. Studies have found that patients using the Medtronic smartphone-based heart device app, MyCareLink Heart, are more likely to adhere to their data transmission schedule with app-connected devices as opposed to traditional bedside monitors.1 Such adherence is critical to ongoing, effective care. Research on remote monitoring shows patients who follow their data transmission schedule may have higher survival rates,2,3 fewer emergency room visits,4,5 and shorter hospital stays.6

“This type of technology is really the future,” said Khaldoun G. Tarakji, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Digital Health at the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. He led the Medtronic-sponsored BlueSync Field Evaluation Study, which looked at the performance of MyCareLink Heart. Tarakji was not involved in the Cleveland Clinic top innovations judging.

Pandemic Points to More Benefits

And then there are unexpected benefits – revealed by the COVID-19 crisis.

patient image
Remote monitoring technology allows clinicians to check on patients without in-person visits.

Dr. Tarakji said the remote monitoring technology is proving even more valuable during the pandemic, allowing clinicians to check on patients without in-person visits. That reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission and helps preserve the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). “The pandemic is helping us think about possibilities and advantages of this platform that we wouldn’t have thought of previously,” he said. Watch more of Dr. Tarakji’s discussion of the BlueSync Field Evaluation Study at HRS 2020.

Medtronic has a wide range of heart devices – including insertable heart monitors, pacemakers, implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs), cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators (CRT-Ds), and cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemakers (CRT-Ps) – that all use the MyCareLink Heart app.

“Our leadership in digital health monitoring goes back decades,” Kowal said. “When the internet was in its infancy in the 1990s, our team had the vision for a platform to remotely monitor cardiac devices with bedside monitors.  And when many of us were still using flip phones, they saw a future of connecting devices with smartphones we carry everywhere. Now we’re seeing it actually happen.”


More on remote care during the pandemic



1 Tarakji KG, Zaidi AM, Zweibel SL, et al. Performance of First in the World Pacemaker to Use Smart Device App for Remote Monitoring. Late-breaking clinical trial presented online at HRS 2020.
2 Saxon LA, Hayes DL, Gilliam FR, et al. Long-term outcome after ICD and CRT implantation and influence of remote device follow-up: the ALTITUDE survival study. Circulation. December 7, 2010;122(23):2359-2367.
3 Varma N, Piccini JP, Snell J, Fischer A, Dalal N, Mittal S. Relationship between Level of Adherence to Automatic Wireless Remote Monitoring and Survival in Pacemaker and Defibrillator Patients. J Am Coll Cardiol. June 23, 2015;65(24): 2601-2610.
4 Cronin EM, Ching EA, Varma N, Martin DO, Wilkoff BL, Lindsay BD. Remote monitoring of cardiovascular devices: a time and activity analysis. Heart Rhythm. December 2012;9(12): 1947-1951.
5 Varma N. Rationale and design of a prospective study of the efficacy of a remote monitoring system used in implantable cardioverter defibrillator follow-up: the Lumos-T Reduces Routine Office Device Follow-Up Study (TRUST) study. Am Heart J. December 2007;154(6):1029-1034.
6 Crossley GH, Boyle A, Vitense H, Chang Y, Mead RH; CONNECT Investigators. The CONNECT (Clinical Evaluation of Remote Notification to Reduce Time to Clinical Decision) trial: the value of wireless remote monitoring with automatic clinician alerts. J Am Coll Cardiol. March 8, 2011;57(10):1181-1189.