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  • John Nosta

Digital Health Innovators, Pay Attention: AliveCor Just Became The Standard For Success

It has a long name. The Assessment of Remote Heart Rhythm Sampling Using the AliveCor Heart Monitor to Screen for Atrial Fibrillation — The REHEARSE-AF Study. It's an important clinical study that was just published in Circulation that clearly establishes the power of a simple smartphone device in detecting atrial fibrillation.

Screening with a twice-weekly single-lead iECG with remote interpretation in ambulatory patients ≥65 years of age at increased risk of stroke was found to be significantly more likely to identify incidents AF than current management. And while technology proved its premise, it's interesting to note that this approach is also highly acceptable to this group of patients that might not be conventionally viewed as tech-friendly.

That was the headline. But perhaps more importantly, it was a clarion call to all those innovators in digital health that science and data are the central pillars to success. It's not sexy slogans, not enigmatic CEOs and not marketing hyperbole that drive success.

It's the data, stupid.

This is an important realization because there's still a potentially life-threatening digital health "arrhythmia" out there that casts a very pessimistic shadow. And some have even gone so far as to suggest that it's actually killed the category. But I'm here to report to the contrary. While the health tech sector has had its share of stumbles and falls, we only need to look at AliveCor for a few valuable lessons that can help frame success from a different perspective. AliveCor Founder, David Albert, MD puts it this way:

Lead with data, not press releases. No health-care knowledge leads to no understanding of the criticality of clinical validation. And that, leads to no success. AliveCor is built on clinical data — we are used at many of the best medical centers and have over 80 clinical validation publications.

What AliveCor has done is far from simple — they have built a company that follows 3 core principles. The "build it and they will come" philosophy takes a back seat to a "prove it and they will use it" strategy.

Data drives developement. At the core of Albert's mission is that the hype of innovation must be supported by data. And it's these data that provide the basis for the path forward into the marketplace.

Responding to a real and unmet clinical need. Atrial fibrillation is major cause of disabling stroke and death. It's this clinical urgency that establishes a real and important demand for innovation and a simple approach to detect and manage this condition.

A positive user experience — both patient and health-care provider. Technology has taught us an important lesson. The user experience is essential and the success of Apple and Amazon are testaments to this. AliveCor has driven adoption to varied stakeholders by keeping the experience intuitive and simple.

But let's not get too carried away.

Data is king — especially in health care. But innovation is a tricky area and can often be crushed by the "clinical pragmatists" who search for that P value. And the arrow of innovation may not be very straight and can take us by surprise even when the yoke of clinical convention forces many to preconceived ideas of success or methodology.

Henry Ford famously said that if he asked his customers what they want, they would ask for a faster horse. And the same might be true in health-care innovation. Clinicians are accustomed to the evolution of care where innovation is often incremental — similar, but better. This is their comfort zone. So, let's keep the spirit of innovation and leave space for "the crazies" that helped change the world. Because, it's those people and ideas —empowered by peer-reviewed clinical data — that just might shock digital health into a bold new reality. I'm glad that AliveCor is keeping us honest.

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