A conversation with… Gerard Kool

19th August 2020

This week’s AOS blog sees Gill Wood – AOS Commercial Project manager (and the least IT savvy member of the team) cover a Q&A session with the AOS Operations Director, Gerard Kool. Ahead of the new software launch, Gill wants to know more about AOS innovations, tech and Gerard’s vision for the future.

Gerard, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Please can you tell me a little about your role at AOS and your current main objective?

I am the Operations Director and one of the Founding Members of the AOS family joining Karl Jeebaun (CEO) and Eduardo Mangieri (Executive Chairman) in 2016. I cover everything between Commercial to R&D. I manage the compliance, IT & regulations teams and am heavily involved in product design and delivery.

Aside from pushing forward with new products, my current main objective is to develop an HR committed role. As a company we are known for being flexible, amenable and fun. However, we need to create a COVID-responsive approach for HR to create an ethos and culture that puts our staff first. Now we’re all ‘living at work’ we have to adapt our management style and be more mindful of staff-wellbeing and mental health. Do we offer gym memberships or yoga classes? Either way we want to adopt a strategy that looks after the staff – creating a really great place to work that is known throughout our industry.

Everyone at AOS is very excited about the new product changes/software launch. Can you give us any ‘insider’ information about the innovation behind the changes?

Sure: There are many changes which mainly focus on its’ commercial business efficacy. We have not changed the core functionality, though we have added a few new tools, the main changes are its’ business support tools which include a whole new image data-base, high trust data transfer and sharing, a structured and innovative reporting mechanism and a new intuitive workflow.

Over the years I have been working with the team at AOS, the main question from optometrists and ophthalmologists alike has been ”is there a web version?” and “when can I get it on my Mac?”. Are these the features we will see in the V.3 software?

I’ve been pushing for this solution for some time, however, the tech behind it is complex and of course required an entire revalidation program. It needed time, investment and technical expertise! We now have the right developers, the right solution at the right time. So, I can confirm that yes – it is about to be a web-based tool! Device agnostic and available to all.

One of the most beneficial features of the AOS software is the algorithm that allows us to objectively grade the results from an image. The image doesn’t even have to be taken by an OCT or digital slit lamp? Tell me more…

You need to remember that an image is an image – the source doesn’t matter. The difference is in the capability of the device. A slit lamp is designed to take images of eyes whereas your smart phone has not been. You can have light in a room, high-exposure, reflections etc all which can cause an issue. We have algorithms that are already working, even before you have analysed the image, off-setting environmental variables such as lighting or image exposure that help to create objective, standardised results.

During COVID, and the subsequent hiatus in clinic activity, remote triage and screening has become paramount to eyecare professionals. How does the mobile app benefit patients?

We had always wanted to use the mobile app to give it to patients, either to send images to doctors, or to track their own conditions themselves. It took us a while to settle on the best solution which is leaving the analysis and tracking to the professionals, whilst providing the patient the ability to capture and send images.

At the beginning of COVID we provided a workaround with our old app to allow patients to send images. We hadn’t done it before and there was a concern that we may be overloaded with patient images. However, the app worked well and permitted eyecare professionals to see their patient’s images remotely – diagnosing and treating in the safety of their own home. In the background we continued to hone the design of the new product which was always designed with this in mind. The need that arose for remote consultation during COVID-19 has cemented our belief that tele-medicine is the way forward.

How important do you think the smartphone has become to the AOS software?

A smartphone is important to us, as we are not a device manufacturer, and this gives us the ability to make the software available to eyecare professionals and patients who need to be seen remotely. It has been a huge bonus during the recent times. I don’t think it will replace any of the traditional devices, but I think the strategy for those devices will change to incorporate mobile technology.

With its capacity for trust, security & data transfer, how can chains and multi-practices safely use the AOS software?

AOS V.3 is hosted on the Health and Social Care Network; a fully resilient network used by the NHS. The system itself uses a complex set of unique user ID’s to help us keep data and images separate whilst in transit. Nothing captured individually can be traced back to a person. It is the perfect solution for any practice or clinic needing to transfer the data to another setting.

Last but not least – tell us a little about the favourite element of your job, and what you like to do in your spare time?

In work – it has to be how we have selected the team and how we continue to develop and grow the Company. The bits I personally enjoy are the problem solving; workflows, interface design, simplifying complex processes. And any opportunity to fiddle with cameras, new tech or graphic design is never missed.

At home I run, brew beer, am into photography (mostly B&W, Fuji X series) and spend too much hard-earned cash on trainers. I’ve just moved, so am back in the DIY groove and itching to take my new kayak out on the sea.

Gerard – Thank you for taking me through the technical advances within AOS Anterior and sharing the exciting news of V3!  It has been a pleasure talking with you, and always inspirational to work with you.

Gerard Kool is Operations Director at AOS.