Palpitations, dizziness, and fainting can often be symptoms of underlying heart disease. The key to the correctly diagnosing them is reliable documentation of the underlying cardiac rhythm when symptoms occur. Holter and Event recorders are the two noninvasive methods have been usually used to do such long-term ambulatory monitoring, but they often end up being insufficient or ineffective for various reasons (low yield, not long enough, etc.). In the recent few years, Mobile Cardiac Outpatient Telemetry (MCOT) term has gained ground, in part due to Cardionet’s products. MCOT is a viable alternative to conventional cardiac monitoring:  it’s real-time, portable and can be done over extended periods.

With that background, Corventis becomes an interesting entrant to the MCOT space. Their technology platform consists of a bandaid-size wireless sensor patch called (“PiiX”) that detects, records and transmits physiological data to a portable hub (called “zLink”). zLink is a cellphone-size device that sends the data over wireless network to ‘Corventis Monitoring Center’, which is a staffed to do preliminary interpretation and urgent physician notification. They offer these capabilities in two forms: NUVANT (ECG based continuous arrhythmia monitoring) and AVIVO (non-ECG physiological paramters monitoring). Corventis has some big venture names behind it: KPCB, Mohr Davidow, DAG ventures. They recently got FDA clearance for NUVANT in January 2010.

Cardiac diseases are certainly the prime target for any wireless remote monitoring startup. Corventis is not alone. iRhythm’s Zio Patch is designed to diagnose cardiac arrhythmia by providing  up to 14 days of continuous recording. Once done, the Zio Patch can be mailed back to the company for analysis. Unfortunately, the Achilles heel for all of these companies is reimbursement. So far, private insurance companies and CMS are not convinced that such services are worth paying for. MobiHealthNews has an interesting post about this trend here.

I’ve written about a number of consumer-oriented ‘wellness’ services by startups that are using wireless sensors to detect simple metrics like activity and help you achieve a healthy lifestyle. Corventis, iRhythm are good examples of medical-grade services utilizing the same basic technical framework and abilities for managing life-threatening conditions. Once we get over the barrier for reimbursement, you can bet on the remote monitoring market for serious medical conditions exploding. We can wait for that to happen, but I’m personally convinced that as consumers take more charge in managing their conditions (and health insurance continues to spiral the drain from a cost and outcome perspective), there is a growing scope for remote monitoring services that consumers will pay for themselves.

PS: I had a discussion with Corventis founder, Darryl Drinan a few weeks ago. He had three insightful comments for anyone thinking about getting into the remote monitoring space:

  • If you have a choice, focus on therapeutic service, not diagnostic
  • Product alone is not enough, always tie it to a service
  • Patient education is a big problem (if you need to do it for them to use your device, you are hosed)