'Smart' implantable devices can save lives, but docs worry about information overload, liability

How useful are "smart" implantable medical devices? "It's like having an office visit every day and a complete physical every week," University of Southern California cardiologist Dr. Leslie Saxon tells the New York Times. The Times recently took a comprehensive look at the "new wave" of implantables now undergoing clinical trials.

Such devices, capable of transmitting continuous streams of data over wireless links, are showing great promise for saving lives and money by providing earlier warnings of threatening conditions and reducing the frequency and length of hospitalizations, but there are some drawbacks.

Of particular concern to some cardiologists and researchers is information overload. Physicians often are unclear what to do with data indicating changes in thoracic impedance. Dr. Lynne Warner Stevenson, who directs the Heart Failure Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston "likened such information to the game of 'Jeopardy!'--doctors are given answers in search of a question," the Times reports. Dr. Richard Page, president of the Heart Rhythm Society, says some physicians worry that they could be liable for malpractice if they don't look at all the data implantable devices generate.

Similarly, researchers aren't quite sure what do with some of the data.

To learn more:
- see this New York Times story