Defibrillators: Beating Their Way Back into the News

They were pushed into the public consciousness a decade ago when former Vice President Dick Cheney had his replaced. News reports later said doctors had modified Cheney’s so it couldn’t be hacked.

Yes, they’re implantable cardioverter defibrillators—battery-operated devices implanted in the chest that help regulate heartbeats.

By now, defibrillators are more commonplace—so much so that the Medicare agency in mid-February said health-care providers no longer have to collect and transmit data on their implantations if they want Medicare to cover the procedure.

Industry and health-care provider groups looked upon the Medicare agency’s latest update of its process for covering the devices as a positive move.

Removing the mandatory collection and data transmission after years of collection on more than a million patients was a big win, Chandra Branham, vice president of payment and health-care delivery policy for the Advanced Medical Technology Association, told me. Among AdvaMed's members are those that make implantable devices.

Beneficiaries appeared to come out ahead, too.

Exceptions are now allowed to the required 90-day waiting periods before an implantation, such as for patients like Cheney who already have a device but qualify for a replacement.

Beneficiaries will also have to share in the decision-making about undergoing the process.

Doctors will have to use a “decision aid tool” designed to explain the risks for patients. The session is especially important for those who have complex health issues, the Medicare agency said.

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