Medtronic - Always Making Headlines
The Killer Corp's New Revenue Stream Is Your Private Medical Data
The future of doctor-patient visits solidified as COVID kept many patients who regularly spoke with their physicians away from the hospitals. Remote Patient visits blossomed for those patients who don’t have the luxury of putting off their normal exams. Yes, somehow physicians will get away with having you hold your own balls in front of your laptop’s camera and cough so you can test yourself for a hernia.
What a blessing for physicians and hospitals who really don’t want to see you and don’t want to stick their own finger up your ass to feel around your rectum for polyps. You’ll have to do it all remotely via webchat while your doctor tells you you’re doing it wrong and shouldn’t be enjoying it that much. And make sure the urine sample you send in doesn’t have so many pubes in it this time. Remote Patient experiences are gold mines of comedy if you consider it funny to be billed for shitting on your own hand by a physician who doesn’t have to touch, smell or be in the same room as you but will bill you all the same. What a world of digital wonder we live in.
When my physician and I met remotely for my annual physical last year it was digital. But it wasn’t hampered by all the usual speedbumps and roadblocks I usually had to go through for a physical. No check ins with the nurse. No bothersome vitals had to be taken. And when I spoke with the doctor, we weren’t interrupted by the usual wastes of time such as the doctor checking my eardrums for damage, my throat for signs of infection, or that fucking cold stethoscope she put against my chest and back only to then annoy me by asking me to “breath in” and “breath out” so as to waste so much time actually inspecting my physical health. The Remote Patient visit is so much easier - and faster. Without all the physiological deduction a trained physician might employ during a face to face visit this experience was more like a Facetime session with someone who I was prepared to ask me to finger my own asshole for polyps. Thank God I didn’t put that glove on. Because she never brought it up.
The idea of remotely seeing a physician is something only a western world populated with idiots would fall for. Because, guess what? You’re still getting billed as if you were being observed by a physician. Physicians are trained to look for signs of disease and trouble through, who would guess, physical inspection. Remote Patient visits are a joke unless the physicians can see many more patients in a day, accrue more billing time by doing away with old bullshit notions such as touching a patient or smelling their breath for signs of candida or say, feeling an abnormal pulse rate or for example, noting physiological abnormalities only a physical interaction can provide. Your webcam may be 4K but will your doctor spot the slight change in your gait as you enter her office? Of course not. You’ll be sitting down and answering bullshit questions like, “Any changes since we last spoke?” Anyone can ask that question, why pay a physician to do it? My aunt Debbie could do it. Would she? No. I’m just saying she could do it.
It’s obscene what is passing for medical care these days. And COVID has made people believe that physicians can assess their condition with nothing but questions like, “Are you still experiencing yellowed, knobby bowel movements? Remember, I told you to chew corn when you eat it. It looks scary but you’re just eating it too fast. Try creamed corn. Here’s a bill for thousand dollars.”
Welcome to the beginning of a new era. An era in which patients no longer have to go out of their way to see their physician for an exam. The Remote Patient Exam is now becoming Remote Patient Monitoring. Your physician listens to your heart with a stethoscope? Thanks to Remote Patient Monitoring, your physician will see you via webchat and have the entire prior year’s EKG data on your heart’s functionality at hand. If you have diabetes they’ll have all of last year’s data in front of them because of your glucose monitoring implant. Your kid have epilepsy? How does a neural implant array that sends data 24/7 to your physician sound? You may get a call in the middle of the night from your doctor’s office telling you to get that kid to the hospital because that neural implant just sent data suggesting an epileptic seizure of some magnitude was about to occur. Pretty cool, right? Your cardiac monitoring implant sends information into the monitoring system and that system calls an ambulance for you because that data suggests you’re about to have a heart attack.
It’s a far cry from having your doctor try and explain that fondling your balls in front of her is not how she explained how to check yourself for a hernia. See, that physician is just the bridge between here and just around the corner.
Medical device manufacturer Medtronic already has the futuristic sounding system in place to take in and store patient implant data. It’s called The Medtronic Network. It’s somewhat misleading because it’s not a network. In fact, the only network involved therein is your cell phone or home access to the internet and nothing more. Medtronic’s implants have, for some time now, been able to wirelessly send out physiological data. Their implants send that data out via Bluetooth or WiFi directly to The Medtronic Network where it is stored in a database. Your primary care physician can log into that network and look up your implant’s data for your heart or your brain or for whatever type of implant of Medtronic’s you may have inside your body. Your physician will be able to log into this database during your visit and go over anything they find troubling.
It sounds fantastic. If it were at all true. Medtronic does indeed collect all this data from the millions of patients who have wireless reporting implants in their bodies. Their physicians have access to it. Odd that, isn’t it? That your physician has to log in to a medical device manufacturer’s database to have access to your medical information. Most people care not that a corporation is collecting their private medical information, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, and allows physicians access to it. The old way of doing things was that your physician controlled your private medical information and could go to prison should they give it over to anyone you didn’t want having it. Now it will be in the ownership of a corporation who will carve that data up and turn it into a vast array of new revenue streams that will make them billions more. Any entity desiring data on Americans in regards to medical history and years of data output by millions of implants Medtronic receives constant data from will get it and Medtronic will make billions more. Of data once owned by the citizens whose rights protected it.
The very idea of your private medical information, protected by such laws such as HIPAA, being handed over to a corporation known for its cutthroat profit over patient reputation is frightening. Medtronic wishes all Americans, all westerners, everyone they can sell one to, have implants put into their bodies because they sell medical device implants. But soon they’ll have on the market implants that do nothing else than monitor your vitals or your vitals plus one specific malady. They’ll give two malady monitoring for the price of one every Christmas. They they’ll offer that plus Disney+ for Star Wars fans. That way they can monitor the kind of hard on nerds get when they finally see Yoda’s son.
If you believe that Medtronic is a company whose love of profit drives the way they operate, here’s a pictorial history of headlines to help you see what they care about:
There are far too many headlines and articles to continue posting. Medtronic’s uninhibited rise to become the number one medical device manufacturer on the planet seems to have been fueled by its recalled devices that maimed and killed all along the way. So incredible the number of devices recalled during their climb to number one that a pattern emerges that is impossible to entertain: If Medtronic pacemakers fail more than once or twice in a couple of decades because of the same exact problem - sudden battery depletion due to capacitor fracturing, then it seems they recreate the same engineering flaws that existed years prior. Either buying cheap shitty capacitors from China in bulks by the hundreds of thousands is just too good a deal to pass up or the recall of hundreds of thousands of pacemakers every ten years or so is somehow beneficial to the company’s profit margin. Some articles above bear out the fact that Medtronic may be upbraided now and then by a judge or may lose a case here and there but if you get to charge twice for a pacemaker that should’ve only been sold once you’ve found a new revenue stream some might find reprehensible.
According to news articles, Medtronic usually agrees to replace the defective implant with one that probably won’t kill you this time - at no cost to the patient. The new devices are implanted in hospitals that already have the new devices in inventory and, no doubt, have already paid to have them there. Secondly, Medtronic has fought in court to keep from having to pay for the second surgery the patients must undergo so we already understand that Medtronic’s partners within the medical community of hospitals and surgeons and all those in between that profit from that second surgery are not economically harmed in any way. And why would they be? They’re not the ones putting the patients’ lives at risk nor are they responsible for Medtronic’s constant output of implants that always seem to have stimulator leads that break, capacitors that fracture somewhere just above body temperature or… Well, those two seem to be the ones that always crop up.
But just how would Medtronic be able to make more money by manufacturing devices they know will fail? That sounds insane. What they’ve been doing, with assistance from their business partners, the hospitals. is billing Medicare for the replacement device that they, Medtronic, was supposed to pay for. Someone who is going in for surgery to have a faulty Medtronic pacemaker replaced with one sure to probably not maybe fail just after its 5 year warranty, is a Medicare recipient. The hospital performing the surgery bills Medicare for the surgery and includes the price of the replacement implant when they understand that the manufacturer of the faulty unit that required replacing was supposed to foot the bill, not Medicare. Sound incredible? Medtronic gets away with, once again, fucking the taxpayers, first by manufacturing pacemakers we all know by now will fail long before their five year warranty and in numbers large enough to launch a recall of that entire line. Second, the hospital bills Medicare for the initial surgery and Medtronic gets pay-ay-ed for that first device which will fail in 5 - 4 - 3… The first unit has to be extracted from the patient, another surgery you, the taxpayer must pay for. Then the shiny new pacemaker with fucked up copper where tinned nickel should be will be implanted into that same patient. That’s three surgeries and two pacemakers you, the taxpayer just got billed for. Sounds like the Justice Department might take some time off from chasing down the bank statements of some piddly ass doctor’s office who they’ve caught overbilling Medicare by $27,052 and who they are preparing to bring charges against with a trial and all the costs associated - and get on the Medtronic tip which, after hundreds of thousands - who knows, by this point, maybe millions of recalled devices have racked up billions for Medtronic and their business partners who are the hospital systems. But the Justice Department only seems to extract tolls from Medtronic in the form of fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars every few years or so for mislabeling a product.
Does the idea of Medtronic purposely engineering their devices to fail and ultimately be recalled so they can sell their new line of that same device to the next 300,000 patients who will have their devices recalled sound insane? A sample of hospitals were selected to look at this very issue when reports of hospitals billing Medicare for expensive devices that were supposed to be paid for by the manufacturer cropped up. Here’s the headline of that report -
In this single sampling of 296 payments, out of around 200,000 (the number of devices recalled in that particular wave of recalls) Medicare was found to have overpaid $4.4 million dollars because the hospitals simply have no way of tracking whether a surgery was due to a recall or a car wreck or a tornado with a house landing on Dr. Heather O’Neal which would just piss her off and report me for some reason like I did it. Like I have control over tornados! You see, Medtronic was supposed to be footing that $4.4 million. That number’s around 10% of that round of recall surgeries’ true cost. So every time Medtronic recalls yet another 300,000 devices, Medtronic gets paid over a half million dollars and Medicare, meaning you the taxpayer, gets stuck with the bill. So the next time you read an article about Medtronic faulty brittle leads killing someone or hear a woman screaming into a 911 operator’s ear every 15 seconds on the dot because her defibrillator implant is sending massive jolts of electricity directly into her heart, and discover another few hundred thousand devices are about to be recalled that you get to pay for it. And Medtronic gets paid a second time by doing nothing more than making sure their implants fail in enough numbers so their next quarter will look a little bit brighter. The Justice Department blamed “the assholes” over at the FDA for continuing to put their stamp of approval on anything and everything including schematics they don’t fucking understand, obviously, and the FDA replied, “Oh yeah, bring it on!” Then Agent Raper started chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” Until everyone forgot Medtronic’s devices fail and are recalled at certain stages of their fiscal year and they get paid again and again and again.
Speaking of Agent Raper, the OIG is mentioned near the end of that last article as having input with real teeth aimed at the hospitals. “Pay closer attention to your billing practices…” Almost seems like the government and the medical industry work together to find ways to funnel as much money as possible from the pocket of the taxpayer to the shareholders of Medtronic. The poor asshole physician who’s about the have the Kentucky Justice Department up his ass (Eastern Division) because his idiot dyslexic billing clerk keeps putting in CODE 301.x1 instead of 1x.103 might be charged with a felony, might do jail time and will pay years on a fine because his office accidentally bilked Medicare for $27,000 lousy fucking dollars. Medtronic gets away with murder. With disabling thousands. Maiming many more thousands. Puts hundreds of thousands through multiple surgeries when they were only ever expecting the first one. And Medicare pays Medtronic billions for defective medical device implants while somewhere some actuarial working for Medtronic is figuring out just how many pacemakers surgeries they can fit into the life of a single patient so they can forecast their profit ratings with far better accuracy.
But somewhere in the time between implantation of a shiny new offering in the world of cardiac pacing and the reality that it’s just another cheaply designed and manufactured time bomb that controls your hearts synchronized beats lies an odd, unique revenue stream nobody would believe. If my company sold 300,000 pacemakers in 2007 then recalled 100,000 of them and 200,000 from models made in 2009 through 2014 then somewhere at the end of replacing the failing models with newer ones lies a profit. Perhaps the profit isn’t the point at all. Maybe it’s all about this quarter’s financial outlook because only a month after having hundreds of thousands of pacemakers recalled where patients’ pacemaker apps screeched BATTERY AT .005%!! BATTERY AT .004%!! GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM! or where physicians had to call a few hundred patients for an uncomfortable discussion about the implant connected to their heart keeping them alive maybe shutting off without warning… Only a month after the four years it took the FDA to ramp up the importance of the recall notice from “Who gives a shit?” to “HOLY FUCK, LOOK WHAT MEDTRONIC IS RESPONSIBLE FOR AND NOT US!” - Only one fucking month after all the latest recall had done to so many out in the world, can this douchebag go on CNBC’s Cramer report, because that horn-honking share seller nailed it on the housing market nearly destroying the economies of the western world in 2008 - and when I say “nailed it” I mean he nailed it for those pushing toxic mortgages as far and long as they could - can this cheery mutherfucker talk about the company under his charge’s fucking incredible growth. Watch Cramer’s face during this ‘interview’. You know he’s thinking, “This guy’s a fucking murderer! I better play it cool! I HAVE a Medtronic pacemaker that was recalled and this guy could kill me next!”
If Cramer had guts, he’d just go ahead and say what he’s thinking, “You, sir, are my hero. You found a way to design flaws into your implants to every few years a few hundred thousand have to be recalled again. That’s market stimulation throughout the entire hospital supply chain and service sector and only a bald-headed evil leader like your predecessor, Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom could’ve thought of it…”
“That’s racist,” CEO Martha replies.
Cramer rants on, “Because you don’t need any glowing diamond magic rocks to make Medtronic the titanic industry leader in medical device technology in the world today. All you need is to keep the sine-wave continuum of growth for Medtronic then growth for your partners, growth for Medtronic, growth for your partners going. That’s thinking outside the box! The only way you could outdo that would be to convince an entire new generation of customers - sorry, patients - that they need implants that in the past would’ve seemed totally unnecessary. Because remote patient monitoring isn’t just because of COVID, it’s because of the baby boomer retirement tidal wave hitting hospitals in countries that produce fewer and fewer physicians and nurses. Pretty soon everyone will be sold on the idea that everyone who wants to be seen by a doctor will have to do so remotely unless it’s an emergency and the only way for a doctor to physically assess a patient is to either be there having to try and remember how to use an old style stethoscope or just have remote exams where the patient’s implant data is live streamed for the physician to look at. More surgeries! More financial stimulation into the hospital sector! More growth for Medtronic and probably the most important component for assured continued growth, cheap Chinese capacitors that can always be counted on to fail which only leads to more and more unnecessary surgeries, replacement implants and further financial gain in that sector! The only way you could build on that empire might be to take all those hundreds of millions of patients’ implant data, stored in the Medtronic Network, and sell it every which way you can to every possible buyer who wants it.”
“Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” Martha asks.
“If it didn’t I’d be honking horns and blowing a kazoo over everything you said here today because that’s what you do when you don’t want people to pay attention. In late 2007 I spent an entire show’s hour spinning a clacker while blowing into a trumpet and I don’t even play trumpet! But if you think I was about to talk shit about Bear Stearns, you sir are insane!”
If my path had never crossed with Medtronic’s, if I had never been used as a walking, breathing test platform for their remote patient data reporting system, I might never have given enough of a shit to try and sound the alarm. Even if I had come across the articles I’ve put on display in this article I would probably say that if patients want to continue to have their health and their very lives put in danger by this corporation then that’s their business. Perhaps before having electrical stimulation wires plugged into your heart you might do a bit of research into the history of the company who manufactures the unit you’re getting.
Medtronic claims no responsibility to patients. They are not a corporation of physicians. They design medical devices and implants. Their customers are the hospital systems who employ the surgeons who implant the devices that were purchased by that hospital into their patients. That’s one of Medtronic’s main legal points when they do find themselves in court - and they would be correct. My quite rudimentary reading and slight understanding of what courtroom situations I could find Medtronic defending itself in never seemed to even involve the patient - whatsoever.
What I do understand, wholly, is that when Medtronic and their customers - the hospitals, surgeons, physicians, nurses, team members, will rally together to defend themselves and the business that binds them together. And the patient whose defibrillator implant suffered a problem caused by shoddy, cheap components and untested real-world viability had to testify before a congressional sub-committee in the hopes that congress would create an avenue of justice for herself and other patients who suffered greatly at the hands of Medtronic and other medical device manufacturers. At that time the Supreme Court ruled that medical device manufacturers could not be held responsible because the FDA had approved the devices for sale and use in the population. So out of those hearings the Medical Device Safety Act was borne.
This allowed the FDA to initiate investigations into reports of possible medical device issues and if you read the act’s charter it sounds like a license given the FDA to forever say, “We’re looking into it…” Which sounds bad until you compare it to Dr. Heather O’Neal’s answer to my request to look into xrays that seemed to show a Medtronic pacing system I never knew I had, which was, “Go fuck yourself.” Which is exactly what Medtronic, the FDA and The Medical Device Safety Act, albeit with more hopeful language, tell patients who experience pain and suffering because of implant failures and the multiple surgeries those patients must endure because of Medtronic’s plan to have them implanted as many times as possible to sell as many implants as possible.
And while Medtronic continues to rape the American taxpayer for billions, the Justice Department had Dr. Lensko’s home-based Kentucky office raided and the FBI is grilling his wife, demanding she explain how her second job at Dairy Queen could possibly pay for her brand new 2017 Chrysler Deluxe Towncar.
“You’re lying!” Agent Raper screams. “I hate these fucking Medicare fraudsters!”
“Who are you?” an FBI agent asks.