“It’s quite a nifty device,” says Eric Topol, a cardiologist and chief academic officer at Scripps Health in San Diego who has been testing it. “Instead of doing a cardiogram, I just have them put their fingers on my phone. It’s really frugal and is a cost savings.”
The phone ECG, which AliveCor manufactures in China, is being studied in clinical trials in Oklahoma and at the University of Southern California and will need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before being sold in the United States. Albert says it will go on sale in Europe this fall.
At first, AliveCor planned to sell its device to doctors in poor countries. But after meeting with Apple executives about carrying his invention in their stores (discussions are ongoing), Albert believes he could have a consumer hit on his hands, or what he calls a “personal ECG acquisition device you could buy at Walmart.”
Topol says five to six million Americans suffer from the most common arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation. “It’s on my phone, but I’d like to get it on the patients’ phones, so they can send me their rhythm,” he says. “I could instantly tell them whether to go to the emergency room.”
Because so many people have smart phones—some 500,000 Android phones are activated daily worldwide—mobile technology may also upend the economics of some medical devices. Albert knows the low-priced iPhone ECG won’t generate the billion-dollar revenues big companies get from selling medical scanners, but he believes he “can make a little money from an awful lot of people and do really well.”
This August, AliveCor raised $3 million in financing with venture capital firms Burrill & Company, Qualcomm Ventures, and Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund. Following the investment, the company is valued at between $5 million and $10 million.