... if the medical conditions of a patient with an implantable device warrant continuous monitoring or adjustment of the device [e. g. a pacemaker], the patient would have to stay in the hospital indefinitely.
From personal and discussions with others, people want to live at home, not in a hospital or a nursing home. Remote programming can be one tool that makes this possible even for people with severe, irreversible heart failure.
The essence of the patent application
The following quote summarizes the purpose of the patent application.
The present invention is directed toward providing a remote programming method for use with implantable medical device systems that helps ensure safe, secure programming of a medical device in a remote location.
The quote isn't particularly well-written, but it does convey what this patent is addressing: it's addressing the security problem. Briefly, here's the problem, as it stands, anyone in a device clinic or for that matter, a hospital with a computer log-in who has access to a patient's records or has the ability to perform remote programming is provided with the ability to do virtually anything to the patient's device remotely. This is a not a safe situation for the patient and it's a potentially massive legal problem for the device managers.
Medtronic has defined a multi-layered or tiered system whereby certain people are provided with a specific level or levels of authorization. For example, a clerical person may be granted authorization to review patient records and verify that certain scheduled changes and updates to patients' devices have been performed. On the other hand, device physicians may be granted full authorization to see and do anything and everything.
The security system that they propose is not unlike other security systems in the field. Agencies in the Federal Government, National Laboratories, many companies, etc. all have authorization systems similar to the one being proposed. The difference is that this addresses remote programming of medical devices.
The patent application is narrow enough so that I suspect that Medtronic will likely receive an International Patent. That's assuming that there are no patent applications in the same domain that have preceded the Medtronic application. It does make clear Medtronic's strong interest in this area of technology. Patient care is the future of the medical device industry and clearly, Medtronic has clearly recognized this.
Next time, I'll dive into remote programming and issues related to data communication. I'll intersperse these posts to discuss the Achilles Heel of Remote Programming: Electrical Power. And a way that this problem might be solved. Say tuned. These next posts should be interesting and informative.