Bluetooth arrests heart problems

It'll be cheaper and easier to monitor a patient wirelessly, thanks to a Bluetooth chip

A freshly patented Bluetooth application could see cardiac patients being monitored through their mobile phones, but not until 2002.

It won't be the first wireless device to monitor heartbeat patterns of cardiac disease sufferers, but "expensive" and "inflexible" wireless monitoring technology to date has seen patients confined to "in-hospital" local area networks, says MicroMedical Industries chief technology officer Bruce Satchwell.

By using Bluetooth standards MicroMedical believes it can enable patients to be monitored from any compatible device, such as mobile phone, PC or PDA.

"It's a lot cheaper to have someone at home than in the hospital," Satchwell said.

The three-way wireless monitoring system involves a central monitor -- likely to be housed in the hospital -- an intermediary device and the heart monitor itself. The hospital device, equipped with MicroMedical's own back-office monitoring software, interprets signals from the intermediary device, which in turn picks up signals directly from the patient's heart monitor.

The idea for the application has been around since 1992, but Satchwell said developers still expected to wait until the end of 2001, when advances in wireless technology would allow the product to be taken to market.

"In terms of universal access, we've had to wait for the wireless technology to develop. Relatively low-cost handsets (still) have to be made available," he said.

MicroMedical has not put any cash figures on the success of the product.

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