Texas Health Resources uses Bluetooth-enabled pacemakers to feed heart data to physicians

Heart monitor
Specialists at Texas Health are using Bluetooth-enabled pacemakers to monitor patients in real time.

A Texas Health hospital in Dallas-Fort Worth has begun using Bluetooth-enabled pacemakers that feed heart rhythm data to specialists, cutting down on doctor’s visits and providing patients peace of mind.

Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth began using the new wireless pacemakers in place of older models that required patients to use a stationary bedside monitor and a landline phone to send data to their physician. Using the wireless technology, patients can transmit data from the pacemaker to their physician from any location.

“It’s smart medicine for your heart,” Aleem Mughal, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist on the Texas Health Fort Wort said in a release. “Having an application that offers convenience, reduces healthcare costs and allows people with pacemakers to remain mobile, is technology that benefits the patient and the physician.”

Mughal added that he can quickly review the data a patient sends to him to determine whether it's serious enough to go to the hospital. Over the past six months, electrophysiologists at Texas Health Dallas have prescribed the Bluetooth pacemakers to more than 10 patients.

RELATED: 3 lessons for the FDA following Abbott’s cybersecurity recall

But the convenience of wireless pacemakers is accompanied by concerns that connected devices are more vulnerable to a cyberattack. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration issued its first cybersecurity recall for a medical device, rolling out a new software patch to nearly 500,000 users of an Abbott manufactured pacemaker. A year earlier, an investment firm revealed troubling cybersecurity vulnerabilities with the device, which was manufactured by St. Jude Medical at that time.

Legislators have zeroed in on medical device cybersecurity in recent months with varying approaches. An October bill introduced in the House would require the FDA to develop a voluntary cybersecurity framework for medical device manufacturers. A Senate bill provides a more heavy-handed approach, mandating testing and requiring better remote access protections.

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