Cardiocom (Chanhassen, Minnesota) is adding blood glucose monitoring and the Autolink Diabetes Telemonitoring System to the company's existing telemonitoring devices for such chronic diseases as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, coronary artery disease and obesity.

The company also has formed a new division, Glucocom, to focus on its diabetes products.

"We actually rolled out [the diabetes function] with some of our existing customers – two of our existing customers – in April of this year, but we have not formally launched it to the outside market customers until [now]," Jodie Root, vice president, sales and marketing for Cardiocom, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week.

The new system consists of the GlucoCom Blood Glucose Monitor. The monitor collects glucose data and sends it to the secure GlucoCom Diabetes Management Website using telehealth technology, specifically the AutoLink Blood Glucose Telemonitoring Device.

The GlucoCom Blood Glucose Meter and Supplies, which Root described as a "high quality meter," can also be used as a standalone product.

Root said it is the "first time that we've taken one of our devices and linked it to a disease management web site that the patients themselves have access to . . ." The web site gives patients secure login to access data about such things as the patterns of glycemic control or lack thereof. Tight glycemic control is thought to be the key to preventing the severe effects of diabetes that can happen if blood glucose levels are not maintained over a long period of time.

To interact with care providers, patients can either print out the report for their care provider, e-mail the report, or have a nurse or physician download it during an office visit, Root said. Perhaps even more important, the system also can be used for self-management of diabetes.

"There are a lot of individuals who are very good at self-monitoring," Root said.

Health plans, disease management vendors and other disease management programs can use these tools, Root said. They can provide the device to their members toward the goal of better management of the disease.

"The data can go to the nurse case manager who views it and calls the patient and works through a care plan for their physician, as necessary," said Root.

The GlucoCom system's Autolink devices cost $9 a month to lease, Root calling this "a significant cost difference" compared to some competitors.

The GlucoCom system is similar to other telemonitoring systems and services that Cardiocom has developed, only less costly.

"What our customers told us was that the devices that we currently have . . . are great for the high-risk individual with multiple co-morbidities," Root said. "They are just too expensive for the broader diabetic population. We have people who have some high-risk disease, but largely a [diabetic] population that has a many-year chronic disease that needs to have glycemic control."

Another component for all of Cardiocom's medical devices is Nurse Call Center Services, whereby patients can call and speak to nurses in a variety of specialized areas to get information or discuss their health status and get advice. To access the call center, customers contract with Cardiocom for those services. The other alternative is to use call center services with their own health provider or carrier using Cardiocom's hardware and software.

"We have about 10,000 devices now out in circulation," Root said. "I think we are monitoring [through the call center] about 20% or 25% of those customers."

As the direction of healthcare turns toward more at-home and self-care management, Cardiocom said it has been a "leader in [this] curve." However, Root acknowledged that the field is becoming crowded with "new entrants" in the market "in the last couple of years."

For example, Root noted that Honeywell (Morristown, New Jersey), the large electronics company, bought a small telemonitoring company, HomeMed, in 2004.

He said that Cardiocom has experienced "slow, steady growth" over the past seven years, primarily as a result of customer demand. She noted that the company has doubled its growth both last year and the previous year.

The main barrier to more rapid growth, she said, was the lack of reimbursement from payers and health plans. But that picture change, primarily because of what is seen as the increasing willingness by Congress to consider reimbursement for telemonitoring devices To that end, companies in field – Root cites Cardiocom as well as Medtronic (Minneapolis) — have formed coalitions to seek reimbursement by gathering the data necessary "to help the government decide to do the reimbursement," that part of the current trend toward evidence-based medicine.

"We're getting the data on quality and satisfaction and that kind of thing over time to make it more appealing to people to invest in this."

Home telemonitoring is positioned to become a broad necessity, Root said, because "America is an aging population," with increasing rates of diabetes, heart failure, asthma, COPD and coronary artery disease. "The industry is now understanding" that using these types of devices makes sense, she said, for two reasons: "they are cost-effective because you [can] use fewer nurses, and you're more efficient, so you can interact with more patients."