AliveCor's new interim CEO talks debt funding, remote patient monitoring, other big plans for 2019

Interim CEO Ira Bahr said that his company is undeterred by Apple's entrance into the mobile ECG market.
By Jonah Comstock
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Smartphone-connected ECG maker AliveCor has officially named an interim CEO, shortly after securing $20 million in debt funding from Oxford Finance. Ira Bahr, the new interim CEO and former chief commercial officer, told MobiHealthNews that the company is gearing up for a big year in 2019.

“I think we’re going to do more in the next six months than we have in the last six years,” he said. “That includes a certain hopefulness about the speed of FDA clearance, but we’ve got a bunch of things in the pipeline, including the six lead product and an additional indication that we hope to be able to fully market in the first half of the year.”

AliveCor teased its six-lead ECG product last fall, shortly after Apple announced its FDA-cleared Apple Watch ECG.

The combination of the Apple news and CEO Vic Gundotra’s surprising departure earlier this month might lead some to believe AliveCor is in a challenging spot, but Bahr wants to be clear its just the opposite.

“Vic was CEO for years and one of the reasons Vic got involved with the company was that his father had a heart condition that he was deeply passionate about,” Bahr said. “It became sort of a personal project for Vic to be able to improve healthcare that would be meaningful to millions of people. His father’s condition has worsened as well as other family issues, so Vic decided it was time to separate from the company. But 2018 was by far the best year in the history of the company. No one likes leaving the company when things are not going well, so this seemed like the perfect time because things were going so well.”

As for Apple, Bahr sees the device as far behind AliveCor when it comes to clinical use cases, as well as less accessible. If anything, he said, increased awareness of the technology since Apple’s announcement has been driving customers to their door.

“We’re not convinced that Apple’s excellent, engaging product is a competitor yet,” he said. “We believe that from a price perspective, this product is least accessible to the people who need it most. If you’re not an Apple user, you’ve got to buy an Apple Watch, you’ve got to buy an iPhone to make the system work. So their technology is excellent, but we think the platform is both complicated and expensive and certainly not, from a marketing perspective, targeting the patient populations we target.”

Looking ahead, one of AliveCor’s focus areas will be making the device easier to use and more useful in the context of remote patient monitoring, Bahr said.

“The remote patient monitoring space is a bit of a gold rush right now,” he said. “And the reason we think that AliveCor can shine is because of Kardia Mobile. Because we are the only cardiac platform that works with the devices patients already have.”

Bahr says AliveCor decided to seek debt funding rather than venture money because they’re confident in their longterm profitability and didn’t want to dilute the stock.

“The funding absolutely finances our growth going forward,” he said. “Today, more people use Kardia Mobile than any other personal EKG device in the world. We think that is an important advantage and we intend to press that advantage.”