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New Intermountain program helps patients with implantable cardiac devices

Intermountain Healthcare

MURRAY, Utah (Intermountain Healthcare) – Millions of Americans live with an implantable cardiac device that helps their hearts beat in a regular rhythm or shocks their heart if they suddenly experience problems.

Common examples of these include implantable pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.

A pacemaker produces electrical pulses to keep the heart beating at a normal rate. A pacemaker helps manage heart rhythm disorders, such as bradycardia, when the heart beats too slowly, or an arrhythmia, when the heart beats irregularly. About the size of a quarter, it is implanted just under the skin in the chest area.

An implantable defibrillator is a device that has wires which are implanted into the heart tissue and can deliver electrical shocks, detect the rhythm of the heart and sometimes “pace” the heart’s rhythms, as needed.

But what happens when these implantable cardiac devices need to be adjusted or examined? In the past, the manufacturers of these devices have required that a company representative be the designated person to do an assessment of the device. That hasn’t always been convenient for patients, especially if they’re located in a rural area or far from a major hospital.

Intermountain Healthcare is launching a new program to change that.

Intermountain has started a new cardiac device interrogation program that enables Intermountain clinicians at all of its hospitals in Utah and Idaho to make immediate adjustments to devices, saving patients time and travel.

Device interrogation is a process used to interrogate/assess a patient’s pacemaker or internal defibrillator, to see if there is any concern with the device.  It assesses battery life, settings, abnormal heath rhythm, or if the patient has been defibrillated (shocked) and other important information.

How does it work? A small wand is placed over the patient’s device. Once the wand recognizes the device it begins an assessment. It takes approximately one to three minutes. Once completed an automatic report is sent to the specific company representative.  The “rep” reviews the report and immediately calls the hospital emergency departments associated with the device interrogator and speaks with the ordering physician to review the report.

Why was it needed? Patients with devices who may have symptoms such as fainting (syncope) or have been defibrillated (shocked), often show up in the emergency department with concerns that something is wrong with their device.

In the past, the provider had to call the company representative to come into the hospital and assess the device. The company representatives often had to come from miles away, or they were assisting in another procedure requiring patients to wait to be assessed.

Now, Intermountain clinicians order an assessment, and an Intermountain trained caregiver comes to the ED and performs the assessment in a matter of minutes.  The company rep then receives the report in a secure email on their smartphone, reviews it, and calls the ordering provider to give them an overview of the information on the report.  About 96% of the time there is nothing wrong with the device and the emergency department clinician can send the patient home or determine if there are other issues.

How often is it used/needed?  In larger Intermountain hospitals, this system is used several times per day. For smaller hospitals, it may only occur a couple of times per year.

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