Smartphone ECG company AliveCor announced $30 million in new funding today, led by the Mayo Clinic and Omron Healthcare. At the same time, the company launched Kardia Pro, its first provider-facing offering, which uses AI to give cardiologists only the relevant information about their patient's ECGs.
"When we’ve talked to doctors in the past who’ve recommended our device .. and we said 'What do you think?', doctors would repeatedly tell us the same thing," AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra told MobiHealthNews. "They would say 'Your product is great for the consumer, but it’s not necessarily good for me, the physician'"
Gundotra says that with the patient-facing Kardia Mobile, physicians would get ECG rhythm strips by email. They might not know for sure which patient the ECG was from, they couldn't get it into their EHR, they couldn't get reimbursed for using that data and they were concerned in some cases about liability.
"So what we did was we built a platform that solves all of those questions," he said. "It allows those ECGS to come directly to the doctor to a very advanced iPad app that categorizes all the ones they need to pay attention to versus the ones they should ignore. It integrates with the healthcare system so they can be reimbursed and it makes that whole process dramatically easier."
Kardia Pro's first selling point is that it's easy to use for cardiologists, designed by some of the same team that worked on Gmail and Google Maps. It also puts ECG data in context, alllowing patients to also track their blood pressure, weight, and activity and see all those measures in the same dashboard. This functionality is motivated by the same ideas that motivated AliveCor to seek Omron as an investor.
"With Omron there are tremendous possibilities for a closer collaboration between the two companies, given hypertension, ECGs, and heart arrhythmias are so related and most doctors want their patients to have both," Gundotra said. "So there’s potential for us to do exciting things."
Finally, Kardia Pro builds on AliveCor's FDA-cleared algorithms and uses deep learning neural networks to build a heart profile of each patient. For the first month or so, whenever a patient takes a reading AliveCor will prompt them to confirm that its their reading and they didn't lend the device to a friend. Once the profile is complete, AliveCor will only prompt the patient if the ECG doesn't match their profile. Then, if the patient says it's their reading and not someone else's, the system can automatically ping their cardiologist, telling them the patient's reading doesn't match thier profile.
"These are the kinds of tools that in the future no cardiologist will want to not practice with," Gundotra said. "AI will supplement a cardiologist’s service, really being able to provide a higher level of service to the patient."
Kardia Mobile users collect an average of 20 ECGs a month, compared to a standard of two to three per year. This volume of data has implications for research and for learning more about the heart -- ECGs could tell us things we've never thought to ask them for. AliveCor is already doing research in this area with the Mayo Clinic looking at potassium levels in blood, and the company sees the investment from Mayo Clinic as further validation of the scientific value of the product.
Gundotra believes that starting with the consumer and then adding a robust enterprise tool puts AliveCor in a unique best-of-both-worlds position in the market. The company continues to believe in patient empowerment as a core value, but it's emphasizing the importance of patients and doctors functioning as partners in care.
"I think it’s going to dramatically expand AliveCor’s userbase," Gundotra said. "I think there are many cardiologists who think AliveCor is a great solution for many of their patients, but some have decided to hold back because they don’t know how to integrate it into their workflow. And now you have a product that integrates into their workflow, they can figure out how to get reimbursed from it, it just works, which means we think cardiologists are more likely, once they adopt Kardia Pro, to encourage patients to get involved in their own healthcare and get Kardia Mobile."