Feb 28, 2011 Hamilton Spectator


Sandy Schwenger, CEO of PatientCare Solutions, wears a heart monitoring device that, when paired with a smartphone, allows patients to take an ECG and transmit the data to a doctor for diagnosis. – Kaz Novak/The Hamilton Spectator

It’s small, about the size and weight of a deck of cards, but a Burlington company’s little black mobile cardiac diagnostic kit is poised to make life simpler and more accurate for patients.

The company m-Health Solutions, under the umbrella of PatientCare Solutions on Harvester Road, has developed an auto-record, auto-send 14-day digital cardiac monitoring system patients can attach themselves and record cardiac issues as they occur.

Wearing one of the devices and a BlackBerry smartphone to transmit data on her own heart’s behaviour, PatientCare Solutions co-owner and chief executive officer Sandy Schwenger said the device can lead to faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment than current monitors which typically cover a 24-hour period before being returned for data analysis. Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology), was also on hand to celebrate the achievement Monday.

The device, Schwenger said, can mean faster care, more accurate diagnosis and less ultimate cost to the health system.

As well, the device will record events that often happen when a patient feels no symptoms, she said, and m-Health is finding diagnoses can be made in three to seven days.

“We have found people of all ages have no problem hooking up to it once their doctor has attached the electrodes (in the right places),” Schwenger said.

“My favourite, from the feasibility study, was a 77-year-old woman who has never had an answering machine let alone a cellphone and she had no trouble hooking it up.”

Schwenger said the company chose the BlackBerry for its data security features.

Once a patient’s doctor has ordered the use of the recorder and attached the electrodes, the kit is sent to the patient’s home with instructions for use. When the monitoring period is finished, the patient pops the recorder back in the box and drops it in the mailbox back to m-Health.

Patients also appreciate the speed and ease with which the monitoring is done, avoiding delays waiting for a specialist’s appointment or making several trips to their doctor with another device, she said.  Physicians log in remotely and securely to view the documents prepared by a cardiac technologist and interpret and prepare the final diagnosis.

PatientCare solutions received about $100,000 from the federal government through the National Research Council’s industrial research assistance program to fund research, development and a McMaster study to see how patients could handle self-hookup after their physician has attached electrode points.

Because the BlackBerry can transmit from anywhere Internet service is available, even in the far north on satellite connections, the m-Health device “levels the playing field in cardiac care” in rural areas, said Schwenger.

The monitor automatically records atrial fibrillation (a warning sign for strokes), bradycardia (a disorder of the heart rate or rhythm, beating too slow) and tachycardia (beating too fast).

Goodyear told the enthusiastic gathering PatientCare’s work is exactly the kind of thing the federal government wants to see, investing in technology to create and secure jobs in Canada.

Commercialization of research is vital to Canada’s competitiveness, he said, “to bring new ideas to the marketplace, creating new jobs and strengthening our economy.”