Ep031: Dr. David Albert on YouTube Haters, AliveCor, and the Rise of Digital Health

While we are all too familiar with YouTube sensations like Gangnam Style, Justin Bieber, and laughing babies that have spawned viral phenomenons, only one Youtube sensation can claim to have forever changed the landscape of digital health. On this episode, Inventor extraordinaire, Dr. David Albert shares the founding story of AliveCor – the first FDA approved portable EKG device that is operated through your smartphone. Since its approval, the device has been attributed to saving countless lives.

Dr. Albert reveals the how a home produced YouTube video changed the course of his career, what inspired him to invent AliveCor, what it’s like to disrupt a largely incumbent and resistant industry, how his device was used to save a life while 35,000 feet in the air, and he even shares the story behind his signature clothing attire. All this and more on today’s episode.

Now, That’s Unusual.

About Dr. Dave Albert

Dr. Dave Albert is the founder, CEO and CMO of AliveCor, a company that leverages machine learning techniques to enable proactive heart care. Their signature product, the FDA-cleared Kardia Mobile, is the most clinically validated mobile ECG solution on the market. AliveCor was recognized by Fast Company as one of 2017’s most innovative companies in health.

Dr. Albert began his career as a ‘mad scientist’ and inventor as a student at Duke Medical School. After his father suffered a heart attack, Albert commissioned an engineering graduate student to build a portable heartrate monitor for his dad. When that grad student failed to deliver, he made the decision to take a leave of absence from medical school to pursue engineering and build a device himself.

Albert left academic cardiology in 1984 to start his first company, Corazonix, followed by Data Critical Corp in 1991. He spent four years as GE’s Chief Scientist before founding Lifetone Technology, a startup that developed home safety and health monitoring technologies. In 2011, he became a YouTube sensation via a video demonstrating his landmark invention, the AliveCor Smartphone ECG. He has 55 issued US patents, and he has authored 70-plus scientific abstracts in the cardiology space. As a physician, maker, and serial entrepreneur, Dr. Albert is on a mission to save lives, one invention at a time.

 Key Interview Takeaways

Dr. Albert’s success stems from the fact that he identifies a need and creates a tool to meet that need. He is a pioneer in the digital health space, leveraging available technology to build tools like the iPhone ECG system.

Dr. Albert’s viral YouTube demo of the smartphone ECG was happenstance. When he uploaded the video, Albert clicked ‘share with LinkedIn connections’ and within a few days the video had 150,000 views – which resulted in calls from several media outlets, venture capitalists, the FDA and Apple.

The key to Dr. Albert’s success with the mobile ECG was validation. It took money and time to get people to publish studies, to prove that the tool worked, and to gain acceptance and adoption from doctors ‘in the trenches.’

It is possible to get people to buy medical devices and use them on their own. Alivecor’s Kardia Mobile ECG had 45,000 unique users in March, and that number has grown every month for five years.

Digital health has the potential to fill in the gaps in continuity of care. Tools like Kardia Mobile ECG track patients and tell the story of what is happening when the patient is outside the clinical setting.

Digital health has been held back by the fact that its implementation requires proof – which takes time. Investors must be willing to stick with it through the process of clinical adoption.

As AI becomes a powerful force, technology will help us make better decisions and personalize health, yet doctors will never be obsolete due to the ‘wet’ nature of biology and the emotional quotient required.

Dr. Albert’s Entrepreneur’s Prayer: ‘God grant me the wisdom to only make new mistakes.’

Resources

The Atlantic Article – Dr. Topol

The San Diego Union Tribune – Dr. Topol

Fortune Article by Vinod Khosla

Connect with Dr. Dave Albert

AliveCor

Dr. Dave Albert on LinkedIn

Original iPhone ECG YouTube Video

 

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