pdf The Promise of Sensors: Improved Tracking and Outcomes  (.pdf)

Learn how Medtronic is working with global partners to develop sensor-based solutions to improve outcomes for patients living with diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other chronic conditions.


Across the globe, the cost of treating chronic diseases is skyrocketing: The International Diabetes Federation estimates global expenditures for diabetes-related healthcare in adults reached $727 billion in 2017.1 And the total direct cost of treating heart failure in the United States is expected to rise to $53.1 billion by 2030 — 80 percent of which is driven by hospitalizations.2 In addition to driving health system costs, these treatable conditions severely impact the quality of life for those affected.

Sensor: a device that converts a physical, biological or chemical
property/state into a detectable signal.

For more than 30 years, sensors have been a key part of the healthcare landscape and the Medtronic technology portfolio. With a rapid uptick in wearable technology for consumers and advances in computing, sensors have become an everyday part of our lives. Research firms predict that by 2018, more than 81.7 million adults in the United States will use some sort of wearable technology.3

Sub-technologies related to sensors: Chronically implanted,
diagnostics, intraoperative/surgical, and wearables.


Biosensors are used in many Medtronic therapies and solutions — for everything from patient monitoring and blood glucose sensing to positional stimulation and rate-responsive pacing. In our implantable devices, sensors are used within the device without human intervention — using data to adjust the device performance to the patient needs. This can range from sensing activity (and subsequently adjusting the pacing rate to sensing a heart anomaly), to prompting the device to deliver critical therapy to the heart.

Adding functionality to sensors means additional complexity — and more technology. Today, some of the most advanced sensor technology at Medtronic can be found in our latest neurostimulators4 and our hybrid closed-loop system for insulin delivery.5,6


As of 2015, diabetes cost $673 billion worldwide. By 2040 that cost will rise to $802 billion.

As of 2015, diabetes cost $673 billion worldwide. By 2040 that cost will rise to $802 billion.7

As sensor technology advances, we continue to explore and develop potential solutions to some of the world’s most pressing health problems, including Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

By enabling better blood sugar control and therefore helping to prevent complications, sensor technology has the potential to prevent complicated, painful, and expensive issues. For example, Medtronic recently demonstrated that using professional continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) during a change of diabetes therapy (such as moving from one diabetes medication to another) among patients with Type 2 diabetes saved the healthcare system more than $3300 per person per year 8.


Treatment of hypertension is also that stands to benefit from advances in sensor technology. Medtronic is currently looking at how to use data from sensors to develop predictive models to inform an individual’s hypertension care both in and out of the clinic.

“We want to provide the right amount of information, that goes to the right person at the right time to drive decision-making,” says Senior Engineering Manager, Jim Carney. “A managing physician may want to see only information on deteriorating conditions that require interventions. A patient following a treatment plan, however, may want to know, ‘Am I getting better?’ We want to give them that knowledge and peace of mind.”


If one key to improving outcomes for conditions like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes is sensing changes and driving therapeutic changes, how is Medtronic ensuring patients get the benefit? One way is by partnering with companies to provide mobile apps that integrate with Medtronic sensors to increase actionable information. We are also developing new models for care that expand access to appropriate therapies in emerging geographies. The Medtronic Labs Empower Health™ is a model of care intended to reach hypertension patients in underserved regions.


“Imagine if we took all the sensors and data available today and used it to get a 360-degree picture of health,” says Kim Chaffin, looking toward the future. “We could get a much better image of what’s going on with a patient with comorbidities and see the signal through the noise.”

By advancing sensors and related technologies required to create meaningful therapies, Medtronic has the potential to help improve millions of lives and help reduce healthcare spending by billions of dollars. “Everyone at Medtronic knows someone dealing with a condition like hypertension or Type 2 diabetes, and we want to help” says Chaffin. “As we advance sensors and other technologies to address these conditions, we have the potential to make a real difference for those people and for patients around the world.”


International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th edn. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation, 2017.


Heidenreich PA, Albert NM, Allen LA, et al; for the American Heart Association Advocacy Coordinating Committee; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Cardiovascular Radiology and Intervention; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; Stroke Council. Forecasting the impact of heart failure in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circ Heart Fail. 2013;6:606-619.


Joseph A. Sierra, Mona Shah, Max S. Gill, Zachery Flores, Hiten Chawla, Francine R. Kaufman & Robert Vigersky (2017) Clinical and economic benefits of professional CGM among people with Type 2 diabetes in the United States: analysis of claims and lab data, Journal of Medical Economics, 21:3, 225-230, DOI: 10.1080/13696998.2017.1390474