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Mayo Clinic is moving toward becoming more of a virtual hospital. The not-for-profit complex just announced a telemedicine collaboration this morning with a Swiss semiconductor company, STMicroelectronics, to monitor the condition of cardiac patients from outside their hospital rooms. Patients would wear a lightweight device that would pick up such information as heart and breathing rates and beam the data to medical personnel.
A trial involving 10 patients begins today (Nov. 5). These patients will be monitored while in the clinic in Rochester, Minn., to test the equipment and to train hospital personnel. Mayo plans to move on to a trial with discharged patients in early 2010, says Dr. Virend Somers, a consulting cardiologist and professor of medicine.
Talking with me before the official announcement, Somers acknowledged that telemedicine at Mayo is hardly brand new; the hospital has been taking readings from heart patients through at-home devices for years. But he said the STMicroelectronics technology should be more adaptable. For instance, it might be programmed to send real-time data 24/7, or for patients in less critical condition, it could record data and upload it once a day or week.
“The question is how can we make a comprehensive, unobtrusive, user-friendly, and economic remote monitoring system all together,” he said.
The device and monitoring system costs money, of course. The clinical trials are also aimed at finding out whether they’re worth it. Somers says he’s fairly certain it will lower both technology and personnel costs. Time will tell, as they say.
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