In this edition of Nosta & Friends, John visits with his friend, Dr. Dave Albert—Chief Medical officer of AliveCor, and the innovator behind its groundbreaking and potentially life-saving technology.
For me, the AliveCor monitor that transforms a mobile device into an ECG machine is a defining innovation in digital health. From its practical application to its clinical validation—it has emerged as a truly essential digital health device.
The innovator behind this groundbreaking technology is David E. Albert, MD. Dave is a physician, inventor and serial entrepreneur who has developed life-saving products over the last 30 years and turned a number of those innovations into startups. He is a founder and Chief Medical Officer of AliveCor. Dr. Albert has 45 issued U.S. patents and has authored or co-authored over 60 scientific abstracts and publications in cardiology. He graduated with honors from Harvard College and from Duke University Medical School. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, and they have four children.
With all the chatter in digital health, I think it's fair to say that you and AliveCor are actually saving lives! Do you feel that sometimes this key distinction gets lost?
Not really. We are focused on helping patients engage in their own care. Patient empowerment will begin the process of improving healthcare in the U.S., where cost is a huge issue and people will continually be asked to bear more of the burden of those costs. We are an mMedical device aimed at people with cardiac arrhythmias and not an mHealth or fitness tracker aimed at people just trying to stay healthy. I am a HUGE believer in the ultimate power and necessity of disease prevention, and we will be moving into lifestyle modification for our patient-customers.
What are some of the guiding principles that have directed your efforts in digital health?
Trying to help people deal with chronic disease problems like atrial fibrillation by utilizing the amazing technologies developed in the 21st century. Mobile, social, cloud and big data are all technology dynamics that have enabled AliveCor and other companies to bring low-cost, yet very capable, medical solutions directly to those people who can benefit—the patients. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and AliveCor aims to be that line between the patient and their caregivers.
As an innovator and inventor, what are some of the major obstacles that got in your way. Any advice for start-ups?
This is a loaded question, because ALL innovators face the same hurdles of trying to do something NEW. Inertia is the force that resists change, and it exists not only in the physical world, but in every organization and market.
As one of the pioneers of the mobile health movement, I have seen the rapid adoption of ideas by young people, the tepid adoption by the FDA and medical community, and the complete lack of adoption by the payers (especially Medicare).
While the burden of proof that these new tools and solutions actually make things better is upon the innovator, all stakeholders need to participate. Without a CPT code, many traditional medical venture capitalists have stayed out of the mHealth game. That is sad and it reflects their inertia regarding the change we need here in the U.S.
As a physician, how does this perspective mix with the VC and corporate community that often has a driving voice in a new product and/or service?
As I was saying, the medical industrial complex has had a terrific run in the U.S. over the last 40 years—in no small part due to 3rd-party payment and the dissociation of the patients (read customers), the suppliers (read medical providers), and the payers (insurance and Medicare). This has created vast wealth but is now widely viewed as unsustainable going forward.
However, when you talk about changing a 2-trillion-dollar-a-year industry, you are going to face significant resistance. The digital health innovation movement is being driven by some thought leaders like Vinod Khosla and Eric Topol, but there are much larger and far quieter voices behind the scenes who are skeptical of this change. We will be on the unambiguous road to success when we engage those players in the innovative movement.
As you look out at the future of digital health, what are some of the potential game changers that you see on the horizon?
The biggest driver of change will be the patient-consumer. As I like to say, all patients are consumers but not all consumers are patients (at any given time). If the normal capitalist feedback of price was in effect in healthcare, we would have a much more efficient system. As we change from our current 3rd-party payment system to one of much greater personal responsibility for the costs, we will see an acceleration of the change. If you are going to be more financially responsible for your healthcare, you want to be more personally engaged and responsible for it.
Dr. Albert and his team are forging the patient-consumer empowerment path in digital health by providing technology that is simple, effective, and clinically validated. With this type of vision and model for development, I can't wait to see all that AliveCor will achieve—and what's next for this visionary physician-innovator.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.