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RED HOT Contributors


Imagine Losing Your Vision…Now Imagine You Might Have NEVER Had To


Life can be a great teacher…though recovering from some of its lessons can be hard.

Take retinopathy – the leading cause of blindness for working age Americans between the ages of 20 and 65. The leading cause of this condition is diabetes, growing rapidly to nearly 30 million Americans.

Two big surprises: First is that 90% of all retinopathy-related blindness can be detected early by a simple test; and treated successfully with medication. Second is that less than 50% of all diabetic patients ever get the yearly test in the first place. That’s just in America – add on top of that nearly 400 million diabetic individuals worldwide.

How many people will lose their good vision and perhaps entire sight needlessly?

That became the impetus for Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems or IRIS. Recently at HIMSS17, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Jason Crawford, the CEO of IRIS. Their powerful retinal scanning technology, coupled with improved patient engagement and care coordination, was awarded the 2017 Microsoft Health Innovation Award.

Their mission is to inject their 2-minute diagnostic test to seamlessly alert both caregivers and patients carrying silent signs of retinopathy. Individuals who unbeknownst to them, would eventually become irreversibly sight-impaired or completely blind.

An example is Cox Health, a not-for-profit health system client in Missouri that serves a population of 24,000 patients with diabetes. In partnership with IRIS and its retinal telemedicine platform, Cox Health was able to bring the DRE to its patients with diabetes at the primary point of care.

By placing the exam at the primary point of care and connecting the data with the facility’s EMR, Cox examined more than 2,600 patients. From just those scans, the system and doctors detected 800 potential sight-threatening conditions, including 347 that had a form of diabetic retinopathy with the potential of causing near term blindness. 

In this Red Hot Healthcare podcast, Dr. Steve and Jason Crawford discuss:

  • Why IRIS’ unique eye scan technology should be part of every yearly physical and checkup.
  • How helping providers operationalize new technology is more necessary than just ‘selling cameras’.
  • AI and machine learning in applying retinal images to brain, kidney and heart health
  • Growth of nearly 3X year-over-year…with more growth in sight


Below is a short transcript snippet for the episode. You may click HERE or below to listen to this full audio podcast:


DR. STEVE: “You do have quite a few doctors and practices that use your IRIS technology. Maybe you could tell us how this works in practice.

CRAWFORD: “Absolutely. We now have systems live in 29 states. These are mostly primary care and endocrinology practices, either part of a health system or retail space. We’re looking for those who seek to manage a population with diabetic patients – so we can help them to get their quality of care measures up.

We’re helping health systems achieve a 5-star quality measure.

At the same time, we’re working to embed these systems into the point of care, to make it extremely efficient. You know, you can’t just come into a doctor’s practice, drop down a new technology, and expect it all to work. You’ve got to leverage all of the blood, sweat, and money they’ve put into EMRs and population health systems; and we have to fully integrate within those systems.

We also have to coordinate care. By doing this, we’re getting access to hundreds of thousands of patients. Unfortunately, our competitors have not focused so much on this – and it has ended up with many offices with cameras in the closets. We’re realizing that our growth is not about solving a technology problem – but a care coordination problem.”


DR. STEVE: “One of the things that we spoke about at HIMSS was getting beyond diabetes with this technology. Sure, there are millions with diabetes and eye conditions, and that in itself is powerful – and life changing. Then you start thinking about what else you could find in this 2-minute eye exam.

You might pick up information beyond the eyes, and I’d like to have you speak on that.

CRAWFORD: “I really think the tightest correlation is back to cardiovascular risk. The same things that happen in the back of the eye are also happening in the heart, kidneys, and brain. We know that this correlation is possible.

Imagine if we could deliver [in our exam]your risk for a cardiovascular event in the next five years…and we can do it in scale. There’s a lot of applications then, that make this test something that goes beyond diabetes.

If I’m an employer and trying to manage a healthy workforce and my overall cost, I would love to have the opportunity to add this as part of their wellness assessment. Not only am I going to pick up eye conditions such as cataract, retinopathy, glaucoma…but I also want this to be looked at as another marker, like lipids, BMI, etc. for monitoring.”



DR. STEVE AMBROSE is a consulting hired gun for patient engagement. Separately, he is the host of Red Hot Healthcare, a healthcare leadership podcast carried by ITunes, Stitcher and other worldwide podcast directories.

His interviews with senior leaders in healthcare and health technology are highly engaging. Show guests come from the health provider, payer, medical device, pharma, digital health, health policy, and HIT industries.

He is also the author of the conspiracy thriller 3 MINUTES.


About Dr. Steve Ambrose

DR. STEVE AMBROSE is an expert consultant, powerful team speaker, and social influencer in patient engagement. He is the founder & host of Red Hot Healthcare, a health sector leadership podcast carried by ITunesStitcher and other worldwide podcast directories. He is also the author of the 9/11 conspiracy thriller 3 MINUTES.

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