M. Jason Brooke
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Changing the healthcare landscape with innovative diagnostic technology
M. Jason Brooke is the CEO of Vasoptic Medical Inc., a medical device startup based in Baltimore. Vasoptic is currently developing an array of vascular imaging technology, including a portable device designed to scan patients’ retinas. The tool aims to provide primary care doctors with a non-invasive, cost-efficient alternative to pupil dilation or contrast dyes, allowing a physician to easily detect early signs of blindness and other eye conditions associated with diabetes. The company’s collaborates with institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Vasoptic has received financial support from the Abell Foundation, as well as through programs such as the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship, Tedco, and others.
Jason spoke with Teresa Zent, editor-at-large for telehealth for citybizlist, for this interview.
TERESA ZENT: Who is your vascular imaging device designed for, primarily?
M. JASON BROOKE: The patient is the most important. We are developing a retinal imaging technology that can be used as close to the patient as possible without the patient taking it home, and that’s because diabetic retinopathy is a condition that progresses over a number of years, and they really only need to be checked once or twice a year. It wouldn’t make sense necessarily to send the patient home with a device like ours, but it is very important that patients have access to technologies that will allow them to understand what’s happening with their eye, and with the retina specifically. So, we’re a retinal imaging device that’s low-cost, portable, easy to use, and can be deployed in primary care environments generally. The long-term vision is that our device is in every primary care doctor’s office, endocrinology office, MinuteClinic, or Walgreens—not just in where the nurse practitioner sits, but also in pharmacies because quite frankly a pharmacist should be able to use our device to capture information and describe to the patient how their eyes are, what their risk for blindness is.
Q. Can you describe the benefits for the patient?
A. The benefit to the patient is knowledge and better care. About 30% of diabetes patients have never had their eyes checked, and they have no understanding of the risks of their blindness associated with their diabetes. By positioning the technology as close to the patient as possible, i.e. wherever the patient touches the healthcare system in the first instance, they can have access to our device, which can give them access to information, so they can understand what their risk for visual impairment and blindness is.
Q. Looking ahead, what are your goals for this technology?
Our goal for deployment of our retinal imager is to integrate into the triage process of any primary care endocrinology clinic or the like. When a diabetes patient presents to their primary care physician, they are seen by a medical technician, a medical assistant, they get their weight checked, they get their blood pressure checked, they get their eyes checked with our device. Before the patient is seen by the physician—before the physician even enters the room—our device can interpret that information, provide a report that the primary care provider has in hand when they walk into the room to see the patient to discuss with them their diabetes, or whatever condition it is that they’re evaluating at that time. In that sense, the capturing of the information should be as simple as using a blood pressure cuff. The speed with which our software is able to provide a report to the primary care provider is quick. It’s done by algorithms in the cloud and immediate result to the care provider that provides a high-level summary of the risk profile, so that the primary care provider doesn’t have to understand necessarily the details of eye care that an ophthalmologist would understand, but our algorithms and our report is tailored, so that the primary care provider can easily understand what the risk profile is, and communicate that back to the patient.
Q. Why Maryland?
Maryland is a fantastic place to develop medical technology. If you think about the resources that we have, geographically we are the best place in the world to develop medical technology. We’ve got fantastic clinical resources. We’ve got access to the regulators, the payers. We have a patient population that is very diverse and has a variety of different diseases that are anywhere in the world. Let me not forget that there is a tremendous workforce here, a very highly skilled workforce. So there’s a great opportunity to develop medical technologies right here in Maryland.
I think the reason that we’re not the best place right now in the world to develop medical technologies is really a disconnect, or lack of understanding on the part of either policy makers and/or investors of the resources and the talent that we have right here. The burden—and something actually that I am quite passionate about—is overcoming the barrier that exists today to preventing many folks from wanting to develop their medical devices right here in Baltimore and in Maryland.
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