Philips does it again, with an announcement that is sure to cause consternation among their competitors (press release). Philips has launched a wireless version of their HeartStart MRx monitor/defibrillator. The device will run on 802.11a/g wireless LANs, "with [the] capability to network with the Philips IntelliVue Clinical Network." The press release starts off talking about workflow and clinical benefits:

Using the HeartStart MRx, hospitals will be able to transport patients who require cardiac monitoring or therapy between departments or within the same unit without changing equipment. The MRx can also be used at the bedside in departments that would benefit from having both centralized surveillance and cardiac therapy at their fingertips.

There are two big markets for monitor/defibrillators, hospitals and ambulances. While wireless connectivity in the EMS (emergency medical services) world has been around for some time, adoption is severely hampered because hospitals and EMS providers are separate entities. Given the propensity for vendors to create proprietary end-to-end solutions, pre-hospital connectivity necessitates that numerous independent hospitals, and the EMS providers who serve them, must use monitor/defibs and hospital based clinical information systems from the same vendor. Sadly, the structure of the pre-hospital EMS market, and the proprietary strategies of device vendors, has resulted in just a few high profile beta site/trials (that demonstrated meaningful improvements in patient outcomes) and a smattering of adoptions. The return for vendors on their R&D costs for developing this connectivity has been less than poor - not that they can blame anyone but themselves.

In the hospital, monitor/defibs have been standalone devices used in emergency situations. Of course there's been a need for connectivity (data capture, surveillance and alarm notification) all along. The absence of connectivity has made it possible for a standalone company like Zoll to grab a piece of the hospital market. With the advent of wireless connectivity for the HeartStart MRx, Philips has a powerful new competitive differentiator. Philips is now the only vendor with both full line patient monitors and defibrillators integrated via connectivity into one system - this will be a big deal. GE now has a reason to go buy a defibrillator company. (Maybe Physio-Control, I hear they're for sale.) Patient monitoring vendors without defibrillators will have another lock-out spec to fight. And defib companies, like Zoll and CardiacScience, will slowly and irretrievably lose hospital market share. Could there be a whole round of defib company acquisitions in the near future?

This tactical move by Philips is shaping up to be an example of leveraging connectivity for competitive advantage. Unfortunately there are few such examples - a hesitancy to adopt connectivity and poor strategies and execution have plagued many vendors. The words, "you don't know what you don't know" were never truer then when referring to medical device connectivity.

Pictured right is the Philips HeartStart MRx.