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February 19 2016

ProHealth CardioMEMS technology allows heart failure patient to be monitored remotely

Five months ago, 73-year-old Hubert “Hugh” Gebhardt knew he was living with heart failure. What he — and his health care providers on the ProHealth Heart & Vascular Care team — didn’t know was when his condition might take a turn that would send him back to the hospital. Now Hugh and his doctor are less concerned about surprises regarding his heart condition and his health can be monitored from home.

On October 9, 2015, Gebhardt underwent a nonsurgical procedure at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital that permanently placed a miniaturized wireless monitoring device in his pulmonary artery. The battery-less device is part of the cutting-edge CardioMEMS Heart Failure System technology designed to monitor pulmonary artery pressure changes and detect worsening heart failure — before symptoms become noticeable to the patient. This allows Gebhardt’s cardiologist to make adjustments to medications and/or his activities that can help keep him out of the hospital.

Since September, Gebhardt has been resting for a few minutes once a day on a CardioMEMS pillow that takes his pressure readings. The pillow encases an antenna that sends the sensor readings to a secure database through a small electronic unit which looks somewhat like a transistor radio. Gebhardt cannot feel the dime-sized sensor or the readings being taken, and the CardioMEMS system does not require any gear for him to wear that would restrict his activities. Without the system, however, he could experience weight and blood pressure changes before knowing it. By reviewing the data the sensor sends every day, the ProHealth team can see how he is doing and help him get back on track more quickly.

“Heart failure patients are living with constant risk of developing significant breathing problems and extremity swelling (edema) that can lead to hospitalization if not promptly recognized,” said Lisa Schmitz, DO, a ProHealth Heart & Vascular Care interventional cardiologist. “CardioMEMS allows us to see whether a patient’s condition is changing well before he or she has to be admitted to the hospital. Congestion due to fluid accumulation and increased pulmonary pressure can be treated with adjustments in medication, which in turn, reduces hospital readmissions and improves longevity and quality of life for the patient.”

Gebhardt has not been readmitted to the hospital for heart failure since last year, and neither have the other patients who have received the device at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital. Waukesha Memorial was the third hospital in Wisconsin and the second in Southeastern Wisconsin to be selected for the technology by its maker, St. Jude Medical (http://www.sjm.com/cardiomems). St. Jude is selective about the hospitals that receive the device in order to ensure that the infrastructure to support the program is solidly in place.

Data from the CardioMEMS clinical trial completed in 2011 showed that the technology reduces heart failure hospital admissions by up to 37 percent over 15 months. One of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act is to reduce hospital readmissions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5.1 million Americans have heart failure and 825,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Patients with heart failure are frequently hospitalized and face a higher risk of death. Roughly 1.4 million patients in the United States have NYHA (New York Heart Association) Class III heart failure, and historically these patients account for nearly half of all heart failure hospitalizations. The American Heart Association estimated the direct and indirect cost of heart failure in the U.S. in 2012 at $31 billion, a figure that the Heart Association expects to double by 2030.


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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.