IBM gets to the heart of pacemakers

IBM and St. Jude Medical have unveiled technology designed to save the lives of thousands of heart patients by improving the ability to monitor and program implanted cardiac devices.

IBM and St. Jude Medical have developed technology designed to save the lives of thousands of heart patients by improving the ability to monitor and program implanted cardiac devices.

The St. Jude Medical Merlin Patient Care System is portable apparatus that programs implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemakers. IBM provided resources, industry experience and consultation to the medical team in the development of the system. It is designed to help physicians conduct tests, analyse therapeutic and diagnostic data and program implanted devices more efficiently, enabling doctors to make life saving decisions more quickly.

The highly portable device will improve the safety of cardiac programming during open-heart surgery and, once surgery is complete, remotely monitor and program implantable devices, making a once difficult, invasive and time-consuming procedure part of a routine follow up visit.

The Merlin Patient Care System received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April, following a development effort where St. Jude Medical consulted with engineers from IBM’s Technology Collaboration Solutions unit. The team collaborated throughout the project, from the early design and engineering of the housing and printed circuit board through to volume production.

“We worked closely with our clinician customers and the team at IBM to create a more comprehensive, streamlined patient implant and follow-up system,” said Michael J. Coyle, president of St. Jude Medical’s Cardiac Rhythm Management Division. “The result of this extensive collaboration is the Merlin Patient Care System, which enables physicians to provide the same high standard of care for patients in significantly less time.”

The Merlin Patient Care System is a portable computer with an LCD touch screen that enables clinicians to retrieve and analyse patient information during routine follow-up visits and quickly and easily make programming changes to the implanted devices. It is compatible with current and previous generation devices.

IBM helped St. Jude Medical integrate the viewing screen with touch-point capabilities, an embedded keypad platform and a Linux-based operating system with an intuitive graphical user interface.

As part of a seven-year collaborative agreement between the two companies, IBM will act as the business liaison with the third party contract manufacturer who will manufacture the Merlin Patient Care System for St. Jude Medical. St. Jude Medical will distribute the Merlin Patient Care System to clinics, hospitals and medical facilities worldwide starting this month.

IBM Technology Collaboration Solutions is a cross-disciplinary unit which provides skills and technology to many different businesses. Its other medical collaborations include engineering and manufacturing a portable MRI device for the Mayo Clinic. They collaborated with Bang & Olufsen Medicom on the development of a wireless ’pill counter’ that informs both patients and doctors of medicines that need to be taken and tracks medications that have been taken. IBM engineers similarly worked with Medtronic to custom-design a breakthrough pacemaker monitor and programmer.