Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., and 4.5 million people suffer from some stage of the disease.
Early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of developing blindness by 95%, according to the National Institutes of Health, which recommends diabetics get annual dilated eye exams because the early symptoms aren't otherwise noticeable.
While many of the more than 29 million Americans with diabetes dutifully visit their primary-care provider to manage their illness, about half forgo yearly eye exams, potentially allowing irreversible eye damage to go undetected.
A company called Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems, or IRIS, developed a cloud-based platform and image-enhancement technology that connects primary-care physicians with optometrists and ophthalmologists who can read eye exam images taken during a normal doctor visit. The company's goal is to create a workflow that makes it easy for doctors to order and administer the tests and have them analyzed.
“What we've found is the current process is very burdensome. There are a lot of onerous steps,” said IRIS CEO Jason Crawford. “We look at it as a comprehensive solution from intake to reimbursement.”
Rather than trying to sell physicians a camera for the exams, Pensacola, Fla.-based IRIS focuses on its technology, which integrates the exams with electronic health records and either connects doctors with eye specialists in their area or the exams are read by specialists at an IRIS-contracted center. The company has a contract with Johns Hopkins Hospital's ophthalmology institute for those readings, as well as medical director leadership.