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8/15/2000

Monitoring Moves Online

Cheryl A. Thompson

Patient monitoring is becoming a continuous process as companies use the Internet to send information from electronic devices to health care providers.

Heart-device maker Medtronic Inc. has announced plans to enable patients with its pacemakers, defibrillators, and implanted cardiac monitors to transmit heart rate and other information to cardiologists' computers. The "Medtronic.com clinic system" will involve personal computer-based programming devices in major cardiology clinics and academic centers and complementary devices in physician offices and other settings. 

Envisioned by the Minneapolis-based company is a system that, by May 2001, will allow a physician at a suitably equipped clinical location to obtain information from or send instructions to a patient's implanted device without a face-to-face visit. The company said that Microsoft Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. will provide software and hardware for the patient-physician communications system. 

Already under way at a second company is the DiabetesWell eClinic, which has been using the Internet since September 1999 to connect patients with endocrinologists and nurses. Johnson & Johnson, a maker of blood glucose meters, is an investor in California-based DiabetesWell and has an employee on the board of directors. According to the DiabetesWell Web site, enrollees in the $19.95-a-month telemedicine program receive personalized drug and diet programs, illness and health-risk evaluations, and "near real-time" treatment. 

Subscribers are assigned a nurse, physician, nutritionist, and educator and a personal Web site for transmitting measurements from blood glucose meters and viewing graphs of test results. The company does not pay for medications, laboratory work, and other tests but offers to send a laboratory requisition or prescription wherever the patient wants.