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Medtronic Partners with Amazon to Bring the PillCam to Your Doorstep


Medtronic – known for making complex medical devices that often require a surgeon to implant them – is partnering with Amazon.com, Inc. to deliver pill-sized cameras to patients’ doors.

At home, the patient swallows the “PillCam”, which then performs a video tour of the small intestine, collecting data along the way.

The distribution partnership, disclosed earlier this week, opens up new opportunities for access to care – especially in rural areas – and marks another strategic step for Amazon in the lucrative healthcare industry.

Medtronic PLC, which is headquartered in Fridley, first obtained emergency clearance for the home use of its PillCam SB 3 capsule endoscopy system in August 2020, when the pandemic suppressed demand. and access to elective hospital procedures.

The company has had PillCam technology for 20 years, but this was the first time it was made available for home use.

Giovanni Di Napoli, president of gastrointestinal operations at Medtronic, said the company has long planned to have more technology available for home use, but the pandemic has shifted those initiatives into high gear. Medtronic’s PillCam technology has also been used in Europe to perform home colonoscopies during the pandemic.

“We were able – thanks to the partnership with Amazon, because of COVID – to speed up our execution to bring this technology home,” Di Napoli said.

On Monday, Medtronic announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted PillCam 510 (k) clearance, allowing it to continue to be used for remote home endoscopies.

With FDA clearance, Di Napoli said the PillCam home business is now “scalable.”

A PillCam is exactly what it sounds like: a capsule with a camera inside. At this time, the PillCam Endoscopy System is the only Medtronic device of its type available for home use. Medtronic devices will be sold through Amazon and Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing arm.

Doctors are granted unique user privileges on Amazon to order PillCams, which can then be shipped directly to the patient’s home. In addition to the capsule, patients are given a recorder that collects the camera images of the pill. Amazon retrieves the logger and sends it to Medtronic for analysis of the results.

Medtronic PLC has chosen to partner with undoubtedly the world leader in logistics.

“This is happening because Amazon’s logistics are becoming the best in the world,” said Gene Munster, partner at Loup, a research-driven investment firm based in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Munster said, “Amazon wants a piece of health care.”

Amazon declined to comment on its work with Medtronic, but the e-commerce giant clearly has a growing interest in healthcare.

“Amazon doesn’t want to compete with Medtronic. What they want to do is take their logistics platform and make it an industrial healthcare force and be the supplier to all the major healthcare companies for home logistics. said Munster, who was acclaimed in the tech industry as a longtime influential Apple analyst for Minneapolis-based Piper Sandler Cos.

Last year, she started Amazon Pharmacy, which sells prescription drugs to customers. In June, Amazon unveiled the AWS Healthcare Accelerator for working with startups. Last summer, the company began offering Amazon Care to employers in all 50 states, which started as a telehealth service but has evolved into primary care.

Other medical technology companies are connecting with Amazon. In August, GE Healthcare announced a “strategic collaboration” with AWS to deliver artificial intelligence and cloud-based imagery and data to healthcare providers.

For Medtronic, the goal is to offer a wider range of PillCams to patients to use for home gastrointestinal care, Di Napoli said.

Standard endoscopy, which examines a person’s digestive tract, requires the patient to be sedated. This is a difficult enough process that patients are asked to find someone else to drive them home. A remote PillCam endoscopy eliminates this planning challenge.

Di Napoli said Medtronic is working on the “next generation” of PillCam technology.

“We have a very solid [research and development] team, ”said Di Napoli. “Think about the future: this recorder will disappear … the images [will be] go straight to the cloud. “

Dr Jonathan Kirsch, assistant professor of medicine who heads the Mobile Health Initiative at the University of Minnesota focused on rural Minnesota, said one of the benefits of the pandemic was innovations in telehealth and other tools to expand access to healthcare.

“It was a pretty amazing process to see this. COVID has really forced everyone to be creative in figuring out how to help people in need,” Kirsch said. “I think one of the things COVID has really highlighted is how you have to adapt.”


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