Physio-Control, iPhone Appmaker Seek Smooth Wireless Data Between Ambulance and Hospital

Xconomy Seattle — 

Physio-Control has made some unhappy headlines the past few years because of quality control problems that temporarily caused it to halt shipments of its heart defibrillators. But at the same time it was trying to fix that short-term issue, it has been investing for the long-term in wireless infrastructure that it hopes could save precious time for emergency personnel as they bring ailing heart patients to the hospital.

Today, Redmond, WA-based Physio-Control, a unit of medical device giant Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), is unveiling its latest step toward this vision of smooth wireless transmission of data on heart patients. The company has received FDA clearance to start marketing its Lifenet 5.0 system, and is also announcing it has struck a partnership with a San Antonio, TX-based company, AirStrip Technologies, that makes an app that provides a high-resolution picture of an electrocardiogram that a doctor can read on an iPhone or tablet device.

Physio-Control is hoping to make a splash today at the biggest annual confab of heart doctors, the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Chicago. The company, which was dogged from January 2007 until February by questions about manufacturing problems with its defibrillators, is hoping to regain momentum and build a competitive edge over Philips Medical Systems and Zoll Medical in the market for defibrillators and wireless data networks that transmit heart information from the ambulance to the hospital in real-time. The Physio-Control unit isn’t a huge driver for a company like Medtronic with $15.4 billion in annual revenue, but the Physio operation has bounced back a bit, seeing its contribution grow from $343 million a year ago, to $425 million in the most recent fiscal year. Physio’s ability to continue the momentum will depend on whether it can take advantage of its recent investments in wireless technology, says Cam Pollock, Physio’s vice president for global marketing.

“There will be a day when a physician sitting in an office will see everything the EMS person sees on their screen, in real-time,” Pollock says. “We believe what we have now is the best remote data capability in the business.”

Since 2007, Physio-Control has been building relationships with cellular companies, and investing in server farms as part of a wireless infrastructure push to transmit the vital information that comes from its Lifepak defibrillators, Pollock says. The idea is to transmit data-rich files from things like electrocardiograms so that a cardiologist in a hospital can see in real-time … Next Page »

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