A Founder, an Idea: A 24/7 Personal ECG device
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the founder and CMO of AliveCor, David E. Albert,
MD, a physician, inventor, and serial entrepreneur who has developed life-saving technologies and
products over the last 30 years with many of these innovations being turned into tech start-ups.
Today, he is a founder of three technology companies, InnovAlarm, Lifetone Technology, and
AliveCor. His previous start-ups include Corazonix Corp (sold to Arrhythmia Research Technology)
and Data Critical (sold to GE). Dr. Albert left GE in 2004 as Chief Scientist of GE Cardiology to disrupt
several new markets.
Dr. Albert is unquestionably a medical powerhouse – he has 70 issued US patents, a large number
pending, and several new “secret inventions” in development and has also authored or co-authored
over 100 scientific abstracts and publications, principally on cardiology literature. His latest
invention, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile personal ECG technology, became a global sensation via
a YouTube Video in January 2011 around the Consumer Electronics Show and was featured on ABC,
CBS, CNN, and Fox News among many other media outlets.
AliveCor is a global leader in FDA-cleared personal ECG technology and is offering a more convenient
and less invasive solution for ECG readings – The KardiaMobile devices allow for your
electrocardiogram (ECG) to be scanned, with results showing up immediately on the patient’s mobile
Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the world – and a point of failure that is often left
completely unmonitored. Traditional ECG recordings would usually take place in hospital and GP
surgeries, carried out by a specially trained healthcare professional. This procedure requires the
patient to partially undress, and ten separate sensors are attached to the chest, arms, and legs to
detect the electrical signals produced by your heartbeat. This procedure is traditionally less
comfortable for the patients, and the data output from the ECG is paper based, meaning that
analysis and response to the findings take longer.
Alivecor’s solution to this is the world’s first portable AI-enabled ECG device, the KardiaMobile, and
KardiaMobile 6L which are small, wireless devices that are quicker and less intrusive, providing
readings in 30 seconds. These devices, which are the size of a stick of gum, can tell patients with a
very high degree of accuracy whether they have one of the 6 most common heart arrhythmias and
can determine whether their heart rhythm is normal giving patients peace of mind.
Kardia enables patients to take an FDA cleared medical-grade ECG anytime, anywhere – no
electrodes and no patches and just as importantly, the device doesn’t only record the ECG, but the
algorithms can make instant determinations as to what the ECG is telling you about your heart
The past year has shown the entire healthcare industry that there’s a high demand among patients
and providers for high-quality remote care telemedicine solutions, and the convenience of a
portable ECG using unmatched clinician evaluation and the most sophisticated AI technology,
innovative services, and more, all wrapped up in a portable device that fits in your pocket.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant the KardiaMobile device was also beneficial in helping to protect
mental health patients, allowing them to be monitored from the comfort of their homes. Patients
using certain antipsychotic medications require regular ECGs due to thepossible risk of arrhythmias,
which can cause convulsions, dizziness and fainting, and, in rare cases, sudden cardiac death.
NHSX (the unit of NHS England responsible for medical technology and digital data) has been supporting
this work through funding the deployment of remote monitoring technology across the UK, including
a series of programmes in the Northeast and North Cumbria, as well as connecting people across
the country to learn from each other’s experience.
The device was initially used in veterinary practices before being applied to the healthcare industry,
and recently their use has even been extended to Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio U.S.A, where the gorilla
care team is working with the Kardia Mobile ECG unit to obtain measurements on the 17-year-old
gorilla Tulivu. the Kardia Mobile unit is a non-invasive way for gorillas to voluntarily participate in
their health care.
AliveCor’s mission statement is to become a 24/7 Virtual Cardiologist for patients and to become the
heart of remote medicine. I asked David to tell me more about AliveCor and what drove him to set
up the company in 2011?
“The idea began in 1995, and it was an implementation of an idea – I realised that it would be
amazing to provide an ECG directly to a patient, and for them to send data directly to a doctor. It
was the beginning of handheld computing technology and it led to the development of the
prototype for KardiaMobile. Our most recent device, KardiaMobile 6L, provides the first personal
solution for capturing Einthoven’s Triangle, which enables the recording of all six limb leads, or
half of the standard 12-lead ECG”.
David then went on to explain the process of commercialising AliveCor following his initial idea.
“In 1995 we gained a patent; however, we didn’t commercialise it at this point as the concept
was too complex at the time. Fast forward to 2009, I contacted a good friend who later became a Co-founder
in Australia. Initially, he was apprehensive and told me “It won’t work”, however, the following year we
worked on developing the first generation of Kardia. We went to Hong Kong and had prototypes made. On my
birthday, December 14th,2010, I received 15 prototypes for the Kardia iPhone cases, and then on December 30th,
I went into my office and made an unscripted 4-minute video displaying the product and how to use it, and
following training by my 9-year-old son, I uploaded it to YouTube. I shared the video to my LinkedIn connections,
only intending for about four people to view it before the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas the next week.
The next day, December 31st I w,ent out on a date with my wife, and when the clock struck
midnight, as we were celebrating the new year I got a text message from my Aussie partner – he
said, “Mate your video has 200,000 views!” – this was the early notion of a viral video. Following
this, the product was featured in ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News.
The following summer I started Alivecor – in 2012 we introduced the product, sold it initially to
veterinarians, before receiving our first FDA clearing in 2013. The device was primarily used on
dogs, cats, horses but also has been used on bears, dolphins, lizards, eagles, and gorillas! Almost
every racetrack veterinarian uses Kardia to monitor racehorses for Atrial Fibrillation. Early on
some people even posed as veterinarians to gain access to our device.”
AliveCor’s main competitors in the market are Apple, Google and
Samsung with their ECG monitoring watches. I asked David how AliveCor differentiates itself, and
what the Kardia devices USP’s in the market?
“We’re more of a medical tool with far more clinical validation. For example, our KardiaMobile 6L
6-lead ECG can monitor the QT interval using the power of half of the standard 12-lead ECG you
would get in a hospital but it is available in your pocket anywhere and anytime. This QT function
which we recently introduced will be very important for psychiatric specialists to monitor the side
effects of various medications they prescribe. As a matter of fact, the NHS has purchased a large
number to enable psychiatrists to insure their patients’ safety.”
The demand for Telehealth and remote care needs increased drastically during the pandemic – I
asked David whether he felt COVID-19 was a catalyst for AliveCor’s growth following these
“We had hundreds of thousands of customers beforehand, but COVID-19 simply accelerated the
adoption of telehealth – people didn’t want to go into hospitals, so it certainly enhanced our
business. Unfortunately, COVID is not yet over, here we are nearly a year and a half later with the
Delta variant. So, we continue to see the adoption of telecare, but while it may settle back down
after the pandemic, I don’t think the use of our device will go down – it’s extremely convenient for
customers – patients wouldn’t need to take time off work, travel to a hospital and wait for their
AI is a hot topic right now across all areas of Med Tech, offering extensive data opportunities to
assist several therapy areas – I asked David how is this technology is being utilised alongside
“Every one of our products, including the apps are assisted by AI. Our QT monitoring utilises a new
AI application, and we’ve put major efforts into enhancing and developing this technology, not
just in ECG, but in other areas, such as a conversational AI to help answer patients’ questions
about matters such as atrial fibrillation via the app. We have well over 100 million ECGs in our
database that enables the development of Machine Learning AI applications.
We also have a partnership and investment from Omron Healthcare, a Japanese company that
offers blood pressure devices. We are utilising AI to develop a new method of personalised blood
pressure management by analysing biological data recorded from home, including weight, body
composition, and the level of activity as well as daily habits, such as smoking and drinking.
Through this partnership, we have several hundred million blood pressure measurements to add to
our data. As we expand our product portfolio, this data will be indispensable.”
And finally, I asked David what trends we are likely to see in the ECG market in the next few years?
“More adoption and more acceptance of personal devices. Also, today one of the issues we face is
a data deluge onto physicians. We must use AI and smart devices to turn that avalanche of data
into actionable clinical insights. Data no longer comes into a physician or hospital after a test is
prescribed. Now patient-initiated data comes in whether it’s requested or not – new data flows
that the healthcare professional system needs to figure out how to deal with – physicians will be
excited to turn all this patient initial data into those actionable insights. AI will be indispensable,
and phenomenal for healthcare”.
AliveCor is driving a revolution in the personal ECG market, offering life-changing and accessible
devices at the highest level of quality for customers. David’s vast experience in the medical industry
is undoubtedly an engine of growth for their expansion as a company. Furthering on from this, the
precedent that they set on the customer having the best experience possible and having witnessed
the passion David has towards maintaining this gold standard, I feel that AliveCor is set to be one of
the key players in this market.