Looking Back on an Innovative Year in Ophthalmology

Ronald C. Gentile, MD; Tal Raviv, MD; Joseph F. Panarelli, MD; Richard B. Rosen, MD


December 29, 2014

In This Article

The Dawn of Big Data

The Intelligent Research in Sight (IRIS) Registry is the nation's first comprehensive eye disease clinical registry. It was developed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and went live in March 2014.[3] The registry has exceeded expectations, with early adoption by 1000 physicians, and it continues to grow. The IRIS Registry was fashioned after similar registries from the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

The registry was designed by ophthalmologists for ophthalmologists and will become the model for other medical and surgical specialties to follow in the future. The hope is that it remains within ophthalmology's control, as opposed to the criticized and widely misinterpreted ophthalmologic physician data from Medicare beneficiaries released by the Department of Health and Human Services in April 2014.[4]

The IRIS Registry is predicted to become "big data," a term used for any collection of large and complex data sets whose interpretation requires advanced processing applications. It is able to combine patient data from about 30 different electronic health record systems, which can then be followed longitudinally and analyzed for outcomes to a variety of interventions. This could include new treatments in macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Besides potential long-term research benefits, the registry is expected to ultimately improve patient care by providing ophthalmologists and ophthalmology practices with critical practice information, such as:

Easy-to-interpret benchmark reports to validate their quality of care and identify opportunities for improvement;

Measurement solutions to help enhance quality and practice efficiently, in addition to aiding in participation in quality reporting and incentive programs; and

Opportunities for sharing quality improvement strategies and broadening professional networks.

Change is inevitable, and although some fear that big data may fall into the wrong hands or otherwise be manipulated, having physicians initiate the process is a great start. Rules on who will have access to the data and what can be done with them in perpetuity need to be ensured. As long as the registry remains aligned with the standards that ophthalmologists recognize as being the best for patients, it should help advance care and achieve better outcomes.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.