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9:34am EDT July 22, 2002

After years of research and development, a laborious approval process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and several rounds of fund-raising -- not to mention the near-collapse of the company -- Cardiac Telecom seemed to be staged for success.

But the company, which markets a home-monitoring system for heart patients, faced one final hurdle: Getting its customers to accept its product.

Cardiac Telecom positioned its product, which transmits heart function data over telephone lines, as a monitoring system for patients with atrial fibrillation, a malady which often leads to strokes in those who have had bypass surgery.

But CEO Lee Ehrlichman says his company got a dose of reality when it tried to market the product for a narrowly defined use. A physician praised it, only to warn him that the company would be successful once it realized that physicians, not the product's developers, should be the ones to decide how it would be used.

The encounter, says Ehrlichman, was "like getting hit over the head with a two-by-four.

"The doctors didn't like being told, 'You can only use it for this,'" Ehrlichman says.

Cardiac Telecom is finding that physicians are identifying new applications for the technology as they become accustomed to its use. One wanted to monitor a dialysis patient for an extended period to determine when the patient was in good enough condition for surgery. This application, says Ehrlichman, is one that hadn't occurred to the company but that could ultimately be used routinely.

As he points out, "The market's going to decide how the product's going to be used, not you."

Ray Marano