“We can't change the system from the inside so we need to work with the tools and the power that we have on the outside. That starts with empowering the individual.”
Let’s start with the basics—what is Iris and how does it work?
Iris helps you to track and take control of your everyday health while keeping your loved ones in the know. Whether it's logging medication, understanding your heart rate, or jotting down notes on your mental health, our goal is to make keeping on top of your health personalized and easy to do.
The foundation of the app started off as an emergency alert system for your mobile. We wanted to make it really simple for your loved ones to be informed in the event of an emergency. Iris detects when you arrive at a hospital and sends you a push notification to ask if you’re ok. In the event that you don’t respond, it sends a message to your emergency contacts that you select when you sign up to the app. While this is happening we surface on the lock screen of your mobile your digital health card. This has key information like your name, age, blood type, who your emergency contact is, what medication you're taking and the things that you're allergic to. So if you’re unconscious the doctor will be able to get vital information about you. This information is rarely exchanged in the heat of that moment because the health systems that store your data are not interoperable.
It’s scary to think that our data is just floating around in a million different places and that we don't have access to it when we need it most, nor the doctors that are there to help us. So Iris is a system that by informing your doctors and your loved ones helps them help you. We provide them with all the information they need to be by your side.
As well being the mediator between healthcare practitioners, the patient and their loved ones, is Iris' aim to be a centralized data hub for personal health information?
Yes while at the same time focusing on the front-end experience where people are tracking and taking control of their everyday health. The reason this aspect of the app is so important to us is that a huge amount of people in the States have a chronic, diagnosed, incurable illness and the health industry is not set up to help them. We have an opportunity to serve these people by helping them navigate their health information in an intelligent and highly individualised way and put the power back in their hands. So when they talk to a doctor they can navigate that conversation effectively and not be left overwhelmed and confused by not knowing what questions to ask or how to take the answers they get.
Where did you find inspiration to start this business?
I was in the passenger seat on the autobahn in Germany driving back from the French border to Berlin. My husband was driving and I turned to him and said if we were to get into an accident I'm shit out of luck. He looked at me confused and I said if we were both unconscious my health proxy is in the States and with the exception of seeing that I have an American passport, they have no idea who I am. They have no idea about me, I allergic to anything? Am I diabetic? Am I pregnant? There are so many of these unanswered questions, especially because at the time I couldn't speak German. I was always taught that wherever you go know where the hospitals are. But I never thought further ahead like what happens if you actually end up in one? Especially in a foreign country. So that led me down the rabbit hole of getting to understand the healthcare systems and how emergency rooms work.
So you started off figuring out how to help in the hospital and now you're thinking how to keep people out of the hospital in the first place?
Absolutely. We started by thinking - what happens if you end up at the hospital? Your loved ones have to be informed. Then we thought well emergencies happen at home too, they happen on the go, they happen in the supermarket, they happen in the car. How do we actually prevent a health issue or emergency from happening?
That starts with having knowledge. If you don't understand what's going on with your health, things get worse. If they get worse and medicine doesn’t help, you end up at the hospital - and that can be for something as commonplace as the flu. Here in the States hospitals are very expensive. Medical bills can be thousands upon thousands of dollars and if you don’t have health insurance you’re screwed. So we want to put you in a position where you may not end up there because your health is maintained.
It sounds like Iris’ mission goes way beyond helping people to understand their health better?
Yeah there are plenty of products out there that help quantify the self. And I think they help with exercise or allowing you to track your menstrual cycles for example. I think these are all great, they all have their place and are necessary. Anything health wise that is out there that solves the problem and solves the problem in a beautiful way is a plus. But we don't want to be another company that's just quantifying the self in this really basic way. Our vision is to get to a point where we're not just allowing you to track and take control of your health, we're helping predict and prevent an emergency before it happens.