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“At iHealthScreen, we aim to use AI for scalably screen retinal diseases, and stroke, and heart disease for early diagnosis and intervention, which can save countless lives and save people from blindness along with massive amounts of downstream spending.”
Alauddin Bhuiyan Ph.D.
iHealthScreen Inc. -
Alauddin Bhuiyan Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – October 18, 2021
CEOCFO: Dr. Bhuiyan, what is iHealthScreen Inc?
Dr. Bhuiyan: iHealthScreen is a startup company that developed artificial intelligence-
CEOCFO: Why this particular area?
Dr. Bhuiyan: These are the disease areas when people do not know that they have these diseases, stay dormant or without symptoms, and one day they realize that they cannot see, i.e., they are legally blind and also the diseases such as stroke and heart disease are killing people. Therefore, I studied from my Ph.D. to prevent these diseases. I studied this to analyze this disease diagnosis, and my observation is that this is preventable. That is how I started this company.
CEOCFO: How would a practitioner use your software?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Very simple. The software name iPredictTM, has a user-
CEOCFO: How would this differ from what might commonly be used now?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Right now, these diseases are screened by the ophthalmologist. People need to go to the ophthalmologist, they may need to take a day off or travel, or they do not have any problem right now, and that is why not many people are going to the regular screening. The National Institute of Health (NIH) study has shown that 50 percent of individuals are not going for screening, that is why we can see the number of blindness increasing in America from these diseases. That is why we wanted to put these devices in the hands of the primary care physicians, where more or less we go once a year. From there, if we can screen them regularly, and we can prevent these diseases.
CEOCFO: Do you feel that general practitioners would like to take this on? Have they been looking for something like this? How do you know they are going to want to add it and not say, “Oh, it is another thing we have to do during an exam, maybe we should still encourage the ophthalmologist?”
Dr. Bhuiyan: The good thing is that we spoke with them, we interviewed them, and they are really eager to help their patients. When they are helping their patients, if it is covered by their insurance, they will definitely use our device.
CEOCFO: Is it an easy-
Dr. Bhuiyan: Yes, it is very easy. We think you do not need much training. They can simply read the manual. With the camera we are proposing, it is a simple touch start button that will be fed into the computer. They can upload the image into the software with two or three clicks, then the software will generate the report with the results.
CEOCFO: Do you have products available today?
Dr. Bhuiyan: As a product, we are ready. It is now used in seven clinics under Mount Sinai hospital as a pilot study. We are using this data for FDA clearance; also, it is ready for the EU market with CE and ISO 13485: 2016 certification. So yes, the product is ready and is now currently being used.
CEOCFO: What have you learned as people are starting to use the product? What might you have changed or tweaked? What might be different from your original concept?
Dr. Bhuiyan: Not much. We are more or less the same, other than some minor changes in the interface to make the software easy to use. Other than this, we saw some interest in the clinic. They really appreciate that, as the clinics are able to help their patients with regular screening.
CEOCFO: What about glaucoma? Is that a separate process? Is it the same piece of equipment? How does it all get put together?
Dr. Bhuiyan: They are all separate as a disease type. The process for the use of the software is also the same. The same camera, but when you are doing the screening, every patient is a different patient for each disease type. For example, for diabetic retinopathy, you are only screening diabetic patients. For glaucoma, there has to be some specific reason, like if the patient had a head injury or a family history of glaucoma or any pain in the eye or any hypertension. Therefore, we recommend that they should be screened, and they will then be screened.
CEOCFO: When you are working with AI, how do you know when you have enough data? How do you know, “Okay this is it, this is the tipping point, we have enough so that this is really good to go?”
Dr. Bhuiyan: With AI, it is how your model learns. For example, you learn how to distinguish one pattern from another pattern. If the difference is really very subtle, you will need many, many examples. If the difference is between red and white, then two examples are sufficient? This AI is a very, very smart model. It can tell how much error your model is facing based on your current data. It is defining your data and tells you if you need more data.
CEOCFO: Did you always see putting together your computer science and biomedical engineering? How did it come about that those two things came together for you?
Dr. Bhuiyan: They seem to have done nicely, right?
CEOCFO: They did! I am just wondering if that was your original plan?
Dr. Bhuiyan: My original plan was to stay in computer science, and I never wanted to look into the business or medical side. Slowly and gradually, over the last sixteen years, it merged into this medical area. I started with the image processing on the computer side and how your computer is performing efficiently and accurately.
I did not want to learn what is going on in terms of the pathology of the disease, but slowly I thought that maybe I should be looking into these, like how my device can be making more of an impact, like what are the stages of the pathologies. That is how you enter. Every day was like you are learning, and that is how you emerge into this biomedical area.
CEOCFO: Are you funded for your next steps?
Dr. Bhuiyan: My next step is in terms of product development, yes. In terms of the clinical trial, yes. However, in terms of commercialization, I am looking forward to working with investors and partners.
CEOCFO: When you are approaching people, do they understand the concept?
Dr. Bhuiyan: In terms of the scientific community, yes. Our work was featured in ARVO 2018, the largest ophthalmology conference. Last year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also featured our work with discussing in the AAO panel.
I started speaking with investors where I could see some interest. So far, I focus on fine-
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about heart and stroke? What are you looking at there?
Dr. Bhuiyan: In terms of stroke, 90 percent of strokes are preventable. This is what research says funded by NIH. We want to look at the individual’s current health status, like the individual’s age, gender, race, particular body mass index. We are also looking in the retinal image and build the AI model, and then we are predicting if someone is going to have a stroke or a heart attack in 5 years.
CEOCFO: There are so many new ideas to look at. Why iHealthScreen?
Dr. Bhuiyan: First of all, we are saving people from blindness. The vision side is so important, and our device can really save people from blindness through early diagnosis. Secondly, we also focus on stroke and heart disease prediction. Remember that we are funded by NIH (so far ~$2.5M), and we are really addressing a very significant area, and that is why NIH is funding us. In the area that we are focusing on, we are changing lives, adding values with health and wellness to mankind, the community, and to individual’s health.
Fisch Solutions – Reliable, Knowledgeable, and On Your Level
President and Founder
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
CEOCFO: Mr. Fisch, what is Fisch Solutions?
Mr. Fisch: Fisch Solutions is a company that is a one-
CEOCFO: Why the decision to have such a broad range of services? I was looking at your site and you do seem to have a bit more than most companies.
Mr. Fisch: The big reason why is that I feel that many companies focus on a singular thing, and many times they say that it is best to focus on a singular thing and be the best at that one thing. However, I thought to go the different path and be that one source, that one opportunity to work with a singular vendor and have multiple resources, to be able to handle everything that they need without having to have the confusion of dealing with multiple vendors.
CEOCFO: I do see as well on your site, “reliable, knowledgeable, and on your level.” Reliable and knowledgeable makes sense. Tell me about “on your level.” What does that mean for you at Fisch?
Mr. Fisch: On your level means that we are able to communicate and work with you on your level of your organization. Therefore, instead of coming in like an IT person, talking technical jargon, we really look at your business and tell you how it will benefit your business, speaking on your terms, instead of trying to put all kinds of technical jargon out there that may not be able to be understood.
CEOCFO: I see that you do work with New York City companies. What are some of the challenges in being in the city where people require more than many other places?
Mr. Fisch: All of our clients are from all different parts of the country. Many of them are in the Tri-
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your fire department solutions? How did you get involved in with working in that arena?
Mr. Fisch: I started my company when I was fifteen, built my hometown’s first website and I have grown the company from that point. As for being very involved in my community, why I built that website was because I was a volunteer fire fighter. In fact, my family has been fire fighters for four generations, so it is kind of our family’s background, and what gave me access to the fire service computers.
In the fire service everything is run on technology, and it was an opportunistic time to be involved with it, because we brought a lot of technology into the fire service, from developing with another partner the app that links 911 centers with responders near their cellphones, to deploying all kinds of other solutions to the fire service. Technology in the last five years has become a big part of the fire service, as opposed to how it was in the 1990s when I started in that service. We have even gained national recognition from it, and it is the main reason we have grown to where we are today.
CEOCFO: You have, as you said, have a lot of different areas that you cover. How do you stay up to date with so many changes? How do you ensure that a vendor or a partner that might have been really good for a while is maintaining their edge so that you are recommending or helping to implement the best solutions for your clients?
Mr. Fisch: I think that is one of the most important things I do in my position, is to continually evaluate new technologies out there. I stay informed by being abreast of them on the internet, from different IT organizations that evaluate those products as well as constantly searching for solutions for clients. It is a lot of research from my team and myself, looking to always integrate the latest technology, learning about it from trade shows, learning about it from the internet. It is definitely a critical task.
Just because we start with a solution does not mean we stay with a solution. It always has to be the best solution for our client. If something starts to fall off, we are immediately looking for another provider, one that will be better for that client. Of course, like anything that happens, there have been many situations where we have worked with a client product, sometimes for many years, and many times they just stay stagnant, they do not change and then there are new technologies that come out that many better benefits for our clients and then we give it to them. Therefore, we have transitioned out of many vendors. To make sure that it is the best solution for our clients is what is most important.
CEOCFO: When you are working with a client, particularly a new client, what might you look at about the organization to help you come up with what is best for them? What might you is important that perhaps less knowledgeable people do not take into consideration?
Mr. Fisch: I think it is actually a 2-
As far as what we do to make sure that we align with that client properly and make sure that we always know who the key players are. We make sure that they understand who makes the decisions. In this business communication is very critical and also very critical is the process flow, so making sure that our flow is what works for the client, which helps to build a good relationship. All of that is very important when you come to a client.
CEOCFO: What do you look for in your people? How do you attract and retain people that are right for the company, especially in this labor market?
Mr. Fisch: I think that this labor market, right now, has definitely been the most difficult in which to try to find people to work that will fit your organization. However, I think you have got to look outside the box. Before, everyone wanted to hire experienced people and just run with experienced peopled, and that is a great thing. However, in this market you have got to look outside of that box. Much of what we have tried to do is we have tried to bring in people fresh out of college. They are energetic. They are very knowledgeable. They usually know the latest in the industry. However, the two things that you will find with that is that they are not mature enough in working with clients, and it is sometimes difficult to get them into the working process. For one, you do not get that hands-
Beyond that is trying to make your company different. You can work for a company that is set up as a standard company, or you can work for a company that is different, a company that really treats their employees as family. That may be a little cliché, but one that has events with everyone, one that works to support their employees. One of the biggest things I always ask in an interview when someone comes in is, what was the worst experience you have ever had with a company and what was the best experience? Then what do you want in a company? From knowing those three things you can try to continue to detail your company to benefit the employee. As an employer, you have really got to think of the employees and what the benefit of them is to stay with your company, because sometimes people do not think that they are working for their employees. However, a very critical piece is that you have to work for your employees.
CEOCFO: Did you realize that in the beginning or did you recognize that over time?
Mr. Fisch: All of my experience has come over time. I started when I was 15, and I did not even have much formal college experience, although I did get my degree in computers. About 90% of what I have learned is from the people that advised me that I have reached out to that have really good business backgrounds. Therefore, it has taken years and years of trial and error, education from people and learning along the way.
CEOCFO: We came upon Fisch Solutions due to your recognition on the Inc 5000 list. Would you tell us about that?
Mr. Fisch: As far as making Inc 5000 the reason that we were able to reach that level is because in the last 3 years a lot has changed that we have been able to really, I would not say benefit, but with the COVID thing going on, we were one of the few industries where it had the opposite effect. That is because everybody had to transition their businesses and everyone had to change the way they worked, so they relied on technology for that. It was that huge reliance on technology that led to our rapid growth.
There were also the different services we offer that helped us to grow so rapidly. About four or five years ago we had 3 or 4 employees and then a couple of years ago we were at 15 employees. Today we are almost at 25. It is just continual growth, continuing to add more services, more people, and it is definitely apparent that we are getting Inc 5000 saying we are one of the fastest growing companies in America in this past year.
CEOCFO: What are you surprised we cannot do yet with technology?
Mr. Fisch: I would say that technology is very helpful, but what I am surprised most about technology is that for people it is still not as beneficial as you would expect. It has helped at a lot of things, but something as simple as a printer, you would think that at this point you could just place a printer in your office, and it should just work, and all the computers should still connect to it. However, still to this day, adding peripheral devices like a printer is still a chore, installing programs. It is still much easier, but I am surprised that things are not as automated and as easy with technology. I think it has been great to have technology help us in many things, but to that, there are still many issues of integration, staring up and maintaining technology.
CEOCFO: Are there services you would like to add to the mix? Is there anything left to add?
Mr. Fisch: I think there is always something to add, but with that said, I am constantly trying to stay abreast of the latest stuff that is out there, so pretty much anything that comes out that is new, we are jumping on it. There is nothing really at this point that is sitting out there like, “I wish we could do that.” Typically, when it is out there, we go after it. Sometimes it does out, like 3D printing has definitely been very big of recent, but we have learned that the set-
We have the equipment and the people that could do it, and we have got clients that request 3D printed jobs and support for 3D printers. However, the biggest thing we have found is that it takes so much time to design a 3D printed object and then to print it costs so much money, which means it is not really cost beneficial unless it is something very specialized. Therefore, we have got the service that we have got and there are certain services that we run into to that we just do not continue with because it is just not worthwhile. Maybe in the future, that will be almost automated and you just take a picture of something and it prints, and we are getting close to there, and it might be more beneficial, but just not at this time.
CEOCFO: Why choose Fisch Solutions?
Mr. Fisch: You should pick Fisch Solutions because you have a company that can pretty much do it all in one point of contact. You do not have to deal with something even as simple as your website, your email, your domain name, you could have about four vendors, so just dealing with that. Therefore, that one point of contact can make things not as confusing. It is a great benefit consolidating your bill and sometimes maybe getting a lot of cost savings out of that from having consolidated services. All of that is really what puts us out there as a much different company, as opposed to dealing with a web design company and dealing with an It company, I think that is the big benefit of dealing with Fisch.
“Just because we start with a solution does not mean we stay with a solution. It always has to be the best solution for our client. If something starts to fall off, we are immediately looking for another provider, one that will be better for that client.”