A scientist and business professional, Euan Thomson, PhD, is the president and CEO of AliveCor, maker of the smart phone compatible single lead ECG AliveCor Heart Monitor. The privately held San Francisco startup is “dedicated to enabling individuals to participate in their heart health,” and AliveCor recently announced that the FDA has granted the company over-the-counter clearance for the Heart Monitor, previously available by prescription only. Euan Thomson has a Ph.D. in Physics, and is the author of numerous scientific papers alongside personally holding six U.S. patents. We spoke with Dr. Thomson about what the recent FDA announcement means for his company, patients, and doctors who manage their conditions.
Tom Fowler, Medgadget: As someone with a master’s in radiation physics and a PhD in physics, you have a uniquely technical background for a CEO. How does your education play into your leadership role?
Euan Thomson: As a scientist working in healthcare I think I have a different perspective than a physician. I tend to approach medical problems in a very analytical way and abstract the problems in the same way as I would a physics or mathematical problem. During my career, I have been a research scientist, a hospital manager, software developer, consultant to the medical industry and for the past 15 years, a CEO of disruptive medical companies. I think it is that combination of experiences together with my passion for making big changes in medicine that has helped me succeed in leadership roles.
Medgadget: With the new FDA approval, what changes will AliveCor need to make in order to shift into being an over-the-counter device provider (vs. prescription)?
Euan Thomson: This is really just an easier route for consumers to get our Heart Monitor, as we have worked to increase availability of the product through new retail channels. There are a few changes to labeling to comply with the FDA, and the app will work in a similar way to what it does today. That said, the physician’s role is still key to managing the patients overall health and understanding of the data provided by our device.
Medgadget: False readings may alarm users unnecessarily from consumer operated ECG devices used over the counter. How does the AliveCor data analysis process address this challenge?
Euan Thomson: The AliveCor Heart Monitor is an extremely accurate and reliable ECG monitor and we are continually investing in research to make it even better. There is also the option for patients to connect directly with their doctors and if thy choose, to then provide the recordings to AliveInsights™, a service that enables patients to have their recordings read by either a U.S. Based Cardiologist or a US based Cardiac Technician. We also clarify in our user manual that AliveCor is not an emergency device, and to seek medical attention when necessary.
Medgadget: The AliveCor Heart Monitor is the first and only FDA cleared mobile ECG recorder that supports both iPhone and Android smartphones. Is AliveCor looking to be the first in creating another healthcare device anytime soon?
Euan Thomson: Right now we are committed and focused on heart health and continuing to expand the reach of our product. We will continue to evolve the product to create a platform for consumers to manage their own cardiac health.
Medgadget: The mobile health market has been growing exponentially in the last few years. Where do you envision the mobile health market in 10 years?
Euan Thomson: As healthcare continues to evolve, in ten years, mobile health will transition into the standard of care. Mobile health has the potential to enable data driven healthcare that will in effect be able to help predict and prevent known or unknown adverse health conditions. It will not only impact the practice of medicine, but also the way medical research is done.
Medgadget: As a seasoned medical device company CEO, what 3 tips do you have for those that have just recently entered the medical device industry?
Euan Thomson: This is a very interesting and exciting time to be working in healthcare. The advice I would have is to be ahead of the field. Think now about the changing dynamics of healthcare and the greater than ever focus on streamlining services and improving efficiency. In particular, be aware of the potential role of data and the big changes that data and analytics will bring over the next ten years.