Since the 1990s, cardiac monitoring devices have evolved from transmitting data via a phone line, to wirelessly, to now leveraging Bluetooth and cellular technology. Although the process of cardiac monitoring hasn’t changed significantly, the devices are much smaller, have fewer pieces, and are more comfortable for patients to use. Let’s take a look at where cardiac monitoring is headed and what the future holds.
Back to the future…
The most recent trend in cardiac monitoring relies on a tried-and-true method from the past – Holter monitoring. Many cardiologists and physicians have started using long-term Holter monitoring as a way to capture more data and improve diagnostic accuracy.
The release of a Medicare code for an extended Holter has made it a viable alternative to newer, long-term monitoring options that are not yet guaranteed for reimbursement. Wearing a Holter for up to a week dramatically increases the amount of diagnostic data that is captured and is proving to be much more useful than a traditional 24- or 48-hour Holter.
Where cardiac monitoring is headed
While Holter monitoring remains popular, manufacturers and developers are using technology to redefine the future of cardiac monitoring.
The future of cardiac monitoring hardware development is centering around the creation of a one-piece monitoring system that has a transmission component built into the form factor. Additionally, given the challenges with returning and maintaining inventory, it’s likely that cardiac monitors of the future will evolve into a cost-effective and disposable version that patients simply throw away when the monitoring period is complete.
On the software side, today’s new platforms are cloud-based, which allows for more power and greater capabilities. The cloud offers more algorithm computation power as compared to the device. This power provides improved specificity, accuracy, and sensitivity. In the future, manufacturers will be able to push updates directly to a network of devices from the cloud and automatically upgrade subscribers to the most current software version.
Everyday personal wearable devices that include monitoring, like the Apple Watch or Fitbit, will also undoubtedly play a role in cardiac monitoring. In the future, apps will accurately provide two-way communication between physicians and their patients. It’s not far-fetched to think that a watch or similar device could recognize a cardiac abnormality and lay the foundation for more targeted cardiac tests.
The limitations of technology
While technology has and will continue to drive the size and capability of cardiac monitoring, it hasn’t been able to automate or improve on the art of reading test results, which still requires an educated and highly trained staff.
While advanced software and algorithms are crucial in improving healthcare, without skilled cardiac trained registered nurses to read the data, alert doctors to authentic abnormalities, and communicate the appropriate urgency, it doesn’t matter how or to what degree it’s been captured. The human side of cardiac monitoring remains vital in the diagnostic process.
It’s undeniable that technology will continue to impact the future of cardiac monitoring. Smarter software and algorithms combined with cheaper and more accurate devices will continue to improve results. For truly futuristic advances, accuracy and reliability are significant factors that need improvement. However, science, technology, and innovation are continually working together, and these possibilities will, in time, become a reality.