AliveCor Bridges the Patient-Doctor Gap in Consumer Healthcare

Posted in Mobile Health by Chris Wiltz on April 9, 2014

 New deals and a recent study are positioning AliveCor closer to its goal of becoming a leader in consumerized healthcare.

 AliveCor is having a busy year. New deals and a recent study are positioning the San Francisco-based company closer to its goal of becoming a leader in consumerized healthcare. “Making money as we go is really not the main objective,” AliveCor president and CEO Euan Thomson says. “One of our main interests that is driving us behind the scenes is we'd like to learn more from the [ECG] data taken under different circumstances.”

What Thomson is referring to is the roughly 2500-3000 ECGs that AliveCor receives daily. He estimates there are currently 600'000 ECGs stored in AliveCor's database and that number will balloon to 1 million by mid-to-late summer 2014.
The AliveCor Heart Monitor
The challenge for AliveCor is what to do with all of this data. The question for consumers is if all the data is even useful.
This month AliveCor announced the completion of its SEARCH-AF study to examine the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the AliveCor Heart Monitor for screening for atrial defibrillation (AF). The study, conducted in Sydney, Australia found the AliveCor ECG to be an effective method of detecting AF in patients, many of whom were asymptomatic. The study also reports, “The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of extending iECG screening into the community, based on 55% warfarin prescription adherence, would be [$4.066 USD] per Quality Adjusted Life Year gained and [$20,695 USD] for preventing one stroke.”
AF is caused when poor electrical signals in the heart causes the heart's upper and lower chambers to malfunction, leading to blood pooling in the upper chambers (atria) and not being completely pumped into the lower chambers (ventricles). The potential for detecting and gaining new insight into diseases like AF is why AliveCor is looking to bridge the gap between patients and doctors. “In many cases AF is not known before a stroke, so screening for AF and treating with effective medications could make an impact on reducing the community burden of stroke,” Dr. Ben Freedman, lead study cardiologist, says in a press statement.
“An ECG on a phone is a biometric,but it's a pretty complicated one. It wouldn't make a very good product if we relied on patients interpreting it themselves. We have to have doctors in the loop somehow,” Thomson says.
AliveInsights gives patients remote access to doctors who can analyze their ECG data. 
Part of that effort is AliveCor's AliveInsights service. The service, which was launched in the United States in November 2013 and the UK in February, allows users to share their data with their own doctor or another board certified cardiologist who can provide them with an interpretation of their ECG data. Thomson says AliveCor is also looking into implementing medical-grade algorithms into the system to provide automated analysis as well in the future. “Services [like this] have been around for medical professionals for quite some time, but what we've done is make it more available to consumers,” he says.
He also notes that the advantage AliveCor offers as a portable ECG is that the data is being gathered in a variety of real-world scenarios, not just the sterile clinical setting where situations such as the “white coat effect” can take place. “Our ECGs are recorded when patients have symptoms, they're taken when patients wake up, after they've exercised, when they go to bed, after they have a cup of coffee...We have a full range of context and circumstances for the ECGS that nobody has had access to before,” Thomson says.
To further this, AliveCor has also announced a partnership with U.S.-based Practice Fusion, a provider of free, cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs). This partnership will allow AliveCor users to seamlessly integrate their AliveCor ECG data into their Practice Fusion EHR where it can be analyzed and monitored by physicians as a part of their complete medical history.
“The biggest challenge is that this type of service is so new. It's a very new field putting medical devices into the hands of patients,” Thomson says, stressing that there are still many challenges ahead for AliveCor. “It's up to every company to take a responsible route. You have to make sure that the quality of the data is good. You also need to be very aware that patients can misinterpret their own data. It's very important that you streamline the communications between doctors and their patients and provide the sort of service to enable patients to get medical support and advice as part of the product.”
Learn more about "Wireless technology in medical devices from a system's perspective" at MD&M Texas. May 7-8,
-Chris Wiltz, Associate Editor, MD+DI

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