Microsoft honors Pensacola’s IRIS for innovation – Pensacola News Journal
Already among theÂ region’s most successful startups, health care technology companyÂ Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems added to its mantel a top industry accolade Tuesday withÂ its selection as one of the winners of this year’s Microsoft Health Innovation Awards.
The company, based in Pensacola, received the honorÂ as part of the Microsoft Health Forum atÂ this year’s HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, underway in Orlando.Â A combination of more than 40,000 health information technology professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors have convened at theÂ conference.
Microsoft doles out the awards annually to honor itsÂ computing clientsÂ and health organizations thatÂ best demonstrateÂ industry leadership in incorporating technology to achieve innovation. It selects winners across five categories. Recipients receive promotion and marketing through Microsoft’s health newsletter and blog.
“This award validates what we already do in that Pensacola is a hotbed for technology and information, and itâs going to continue to be,” said Jonathan Stevens,Â IRIS’ chiefÂ information officer.
Founded in 2011 by Chief Medical Officer Sunil Gupta, IRIS licenses aÂ software service platform to health care providers that allows them to more efficiently detectÂ signs of vision impairment caused by diabetes and other pathologies. The technology is aÂ cloud-based platform built through Microsoft Azure.
Through theÂ platform, a camera at the physician’s clinic captures images of a patient’s retinas. The images undergo enhancement through an algorithm to make the images more readable. An ophthalmologistÂ logs in to the platform on the cloud, reviews the images andÂ inputs anÂ interpretation. The physicianÂ then downloads those results and directs the patient to receive further careÂ if needed.
From the initial clinic visit to receiving the results, the entire process would require a maximum of 24 hours,Â but it often entails less time.
Stevens said through incorporating the platform, physicians can allow patients to not have to take another day off from work to see an ophthalmologist andÂ not have to pay another copay. The company declined to offer an estimate on the cost ofÂ implementing the technology at a clinic, citing too many variables in price packaging to zero in on a number. But Stevens said the return on investment for a customerÂ “is less than one year typically.”
Jason Crawford, the company’s CEO, said about 30 million people have diabetes but about 18 million fail to undergo an annual eye exam, which exposes them to an increased risk of blindness by failing to detect early warnings. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness. He saidÂ one out of every nine patients examined through his company’s platform hasÂ been found to have sight-threatening disease thatÂ previously went undetected.
By creating the platform, Crawford asserted that more people with diabetesÂ have received preventive care.
“What weâre trying to do is get access to those 18 million people who arenât doing anything today,” he said.Â “By creating the IRIS system through the partnership with Microsoft, weâve given doctors the ability to make a difference right there while the patient is in their office.”
Because the platform utilizes cloud computing, IRIS does not require a physical server at its Pensacola headquarters. The lack of a physical server allows the company’s system to never crash in the event of a natural disaster to the Panhandle. The company also benefits from a security perspective through its access to Microsoft’s services withÂ storing patient health information.
“We can focus on detecting disease early and treating that disease rather than how to build a server with the right security,” Crawford said.
By the end of this year, the company expects to relocate from its space at Co:Lab, a downtownÂ incubator that leases workspace to startups. It will move into another office in the downtown area. The company also is on target to expand from 19 employees to 53 this year.
Co:Lab Director Kelly Reeser expressed pride in one of the incubator’s tenants receiving the award from Microsoft and saidÂ it is a credit to the company and its team, who haveÂ labored “so hard to build that company to what it is.”
“Not only is the technology superior to anything that exists in the market, but their business model and their approach to combating diabetic retinopathy Â is disrupting the industry in such a way that the huge players are taking notice,” she said.