Imagine software as a drug – a type of drug meant to heal diabetes, for example, or prevent strokes or heart failure.
That's the premise that Anand Iyer, president and CEO of WellDoc, put forth Wednesday when he spoke about his company's plans at the mHealth Summit. Iyer fancies a day when software would be prescribed just like any other medicine.
That day has come.
Welldoc's Bluestar application, which Iyer describes as "mobile prescription therapy," has been cleared by the FDA, and it's reimbursable by health plans, just like prescribed pharmaceuticals.
Iyer, a diabetic since 2002, was part of a four-member panel taking part in the "M to M Now Money Talks mHealth" program. He has high hopes for a future in which his interactive diabetes management tool – and other platforms - achieve drug-like status.
His business model is based on the pharma model, he says. And as for being disruptive? "The disruptiveness of the model is that it's not disruptive at all," he says.
He should know. Iyer raised $20 million from the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and Windham Venture Partners at the beginning of 2014.
Others on the panel are working on similar tech-as-medicine offerings.
David E. Albert, MD, a physician and former GE scientist turned serial entrepreneur, would be the first to say developing new technology is hard work. Proving that it works is harder. You have to prove it works, and you have to prove it will do no harm.
Albert founded three tech companies. The most recent is AliveCor, where he serves as chief medical officer.
He created the AliveCor Heart Monitor and the AliveECG app, which is certified as a Class II medical device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Bringing this type of technology to market requires serious research and substantial investment, he said. And proof - which requires many successful trials. He zipped through the results of trials published by the Cleveland Clinic, USC, the University of Oklahoma, and more.
"Each of these trials has been done in the last two years," he noted. "That's what you have to do."
"If you want to be in the mobile medical business, if you want (the) Cleveland Clinic and Mass General to use your technologies, you have to prove it," he said. "You have to earn that credibility."
"We're saving lives every day," Albert added. "We got there through clinical research."
The technology and app is described on the AliveCor website: "The AliveCor Heart Monitor, when used with the free AliveECG app, is a personalized, easy-to-use device that records accurate ECGs and heart rate anywhere, anytime at an affordable cost. Simply rest it on your fingers or chest to record an ECG in just 30 seconds. And know right away if atrial fibrillation is detected."
The AliveCor Heart Monitor's medical grade ECG recordings can also be shared directly with a physician, or sent to a U.S. board-certified cardiologist or a U.S.-based cardiac technician through a cloud-based ECG analysis service provided by AliveCor, according to Albert. In as little as 30 minutes users can receive expert reviews of their ECGs directly through the AliveECG app, providing a more complete picture of their current heart health.
Also speaking on the M2M panel were Mark McCalliog, managing director of newNRG, described as the world's first digital change company, which focuses on preventing chronic disease, and Ryan Beckland, CEO of Validic in Mountain View, Calif., and Durham, N.C. Validic raised $5 million last August for its health device connection platform, which connects with a variety of mobile health and in-home devices, wearables and patient healthcare applications.