I didn’t set out to create a lung cancer screening software platform. I set out to be an Interventional Pulmonologist. When I started med school, I was thinking about impacting patient lives, not starting a company. After fellowship, I was focused on saving the lives of my patients, not creating software. Then in 2014, I diagnosed a patient with stage IV lung cancer who was my same age. This man was not a smoker, lived a very healthy life, and was in fact an avid runner.
I was heartbroken and angered that there wasn’t a better system in place to catch lung cancer at an earlier stage. I was determined to change that and announced I would manage 100% of all pulmonary nodules in our patient population. I worked with my hospital to implement process algorithms and quickly realized there was a huge body of work in front of us.
A Bold Claim And More Work Than We Expected
When I started the lung screening program at my former hospital, I quickly realized how difficult it is to properly implement and run a program. We didn’t have a multidisciplinary lung cancer team so I used my office staff. We were all working together to manage nodule patients and my office staff effectively became nodule coordinators and navigators. Soon we had everyone from compliance to marketing to my clinic staff working to manage our patient population and ensure each patient received appropriate follow-up per evidence-based guidelines.
We were using Excel spreadsheets to track patients and the whole process was very manual. It was a ton of work but we “kept it 100” meaning we didn’t miss follow-ups and did our best to identify all incidental patients from our RIS system and EMR. I thought to myself “there’s got to be a better way.” At this point I was solely focused on tracking incidental pulmonary nodules, although lung cancer screening had just been approved for reimbursement by CMS and lung cancer screening software needs started to be on my radar.
I began looking into market software solutions to help my clinic manage the nodules we were manually tracking but there wasn’t anything out there built specifically for incidental nodule tracking. In fact, I found out that there were no lung cancer screening software platforms at that time. I did find a few mammogram programs that were trying to mold their software into something that could be used for lung screening but they were grossly inadequate. I talked to other hospitals and clinicians who were facing the same struggles as me and I began to realize that the market needed a better way to identify, organize, and track nodules.
The Birth Of A Lung Cancer Screening Software
With nothing resembling lung cancer screening software or even an advanced way of tracking nodule patients, I decided to build a solution. I hired a developer and we got to work on creating a solution that automated the entire patient identification and tracking process and I was convinced we were going to solve lung cancer. In 2015, we created our first product and it was dependent on radiologists to use it. It was advanced computer-aided detection software and used deep learning algorithms to assess the malignancy risk of pulmonary nodules based on factors such as nodule size, shape, density, volume, as well as patient demographics such as years smoking, age, gender, and race. We also created a patient tracking program that was populated by the CAD function and allowed clinicians like a Nurse Navigator to better track and manage nodule patients.
Matrix Analytics was born (later rebranded to Eon in May of 2018). Our product was groundbreaking, and we were getting amazing feedback from the clinical community, not to mention attracting big-name angel investors. The only problem was we didn’t properly vet the product with radiologists and quickly realized asking them to disrupt their workflow, especially for incidental nodules, was not practical. We were heartbroken but quickly got back to work to develop a product with a good market fit.
We quickly created a workaround that still automatically identified patients and registered them to a dashboard but did not require the radiologist to change their workflow and we quickly learned the tracking portion of our software was more valuable than the CAD portion. We went to work on what was then called LungDirect and created another breakthrough in the pulmonology field, a complex patient management software that actually facilitated longitudinal tracking of nodule patients. Because of our previous work with CAD, we were able to apply our proprietary incidental identification deep learning models to our tracking software. The software was also adapted to automate lung screening patient identification and required submission to the Lung Cancer Screening Registry (LCSR).
We had created a lung cancer screening software that outperformed anything else on the market and we hadn’t even set out to. We began to further test the software and started to achieve some amazing results with our early adopters. We listened closely to our customers and began to streamline things like data collection from their EMR and RIS systems. We enabled our end users to one-click submit all required data to the LCSR with no manual data entry. This enabled the clinical staff at our customer sites to spend more time with their patients and less time tracking down information and entering data. We focused on 6 main pillars: Software, Identification, Tracking, Automation, Submission, Analytics, and Communication.
How We Became Eon
We continued to focus on our customers while consistently improving the 6 main pillars of our software. We conquered hospital IT security clearance and became experts in HIPAA and HITECH regulations. Although our earliest intention was to better track incidental nodules we grew our tracking software into a robust lung cancer screening software platform. We soon realized the need for our software wasn’t siloed to lung cancer and pulmonary incidentalomas and many of our clients began asking us to build additional modules to manage other complex disease states. LungDirect no longer described what we were capable of and the perception was we specialized in lung cancer screening software. Our software was built to be moldable and our proprietary deep learning algorithm could be applied to any disease state our customers wanted us to attack. So, we rebranded our company to Eon and renamed our flagship software LungDirect to EonDirect.
EonDirect today is so much more than lung cancer screening software. We’re rapidly moving into other disease states at the request of our customers. We are live in 45 facilities and have contracts for 100 more that will be live by summer of 2019. We have grown our team significantly over the past year and are moving to create sea change in the healthcare technology field. We are taking the bottom out of the medical software market and offering such crazy ideas to our customers like free upgrades, no training fees, and unlimited customer support. We want to help facilitate the management of all incidental nodules, catch complex disease at earlier states, and improve the survivability of those patient populations.
This is why I get out of bed every morning, this is what keeps me up at night, this is why I founded Eon. I want to personally invite you and your organization to join us in our mission to Defy Disease.
-Akrum “Aki” Alzubaidi DO, FCCP