Three Stories About AliveCor’s iPhone ECG Provide a Window into the Future of Healthcare

Patients are starting to expect healthcare to come to them in real time, and they no longer trust that the doctor knows everything. 

Before AliveCor’s much-buzzed-about iPhone ECG even received FDA clearance late last year, many in healthcare had already christened it a disruptive innovation. Now that it’s actually on the market, we’re hearing stories that prove their case.

Don Jones, vice president of global strategy and market development for Qualcomm Life, told three such stories today at HealthBeat2013 in San Francisco. (Full disclosure: the telecommunications giant’s Qualcomm Life Fund has invested in AliveCor’s technology.)

The first involved a patient with a cardiac implant who awoke in the middle of the night with cardiac symptoms. His doctor had prescribed him the AliveCor product, so he used it to take his ECG. He tried to get in touch with his cardiologist to interpret the data and let him know what to do next, but the physician couldn’t be reached. Unsure what to do next, the patient tweeted out his ECG reading. Several cardiologists responded with a diagnosis, including Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer for Scripps Health.

Topol regularly prescribes the iPhone ECG to his patients, Jones said, and one of them was the subject of the second story. The patient was on an airplane and felt he ws having a cardiac event. He took his ECG and e-mailed the results to Topol from the air.

The third story involved Jones’s son, who has a congenital heart defect. The 18-year-old was in the mountains in Montana when he began experiencing tachycardia. When he was unable to bring down his heart rate, which had climbed to 214 beats per minute, he called Jones to tell him he was heading to the hospital. To assuage the fears of his worried father, the teen explained that he had had already called ahead to the hospital to let them know he was coming; e-mailed his medical history, diagnosis, the ECG data captured with the AliveCor device; and requested that the IV therapy he needed be ready when he arrived.

Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs who moderated the discussion with Jones, explained that Jones’s three stories show provide a clue as to where healthcare is heading.

“Healthcare is moving to where people are,” she said. “It’s no more the expectation that people are going to have to go to healthcare.”

Patients are also starting to expect real-time interaction with their healthcare providers.

And finally, the paternalistic structure of healthcare is changing.

“Your 18-year-old knows more about his condition and what he needs than the provider,” she told Jones.

As more patients come into contact with disruptive technologies such as the iPhone ECG, expect these trends to pick up even more steam.

Jamie Hartford is the managing editor of MD+DI.

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