Couple’s battle against cancer helps inspire an innovative healthcare business

He’s a techie,” says Mary Purkiss of her husband, Ed. “And she’s a visionary,” says Ed Purkiss of his wife, Mary. Together, they took a pair of tumor-sized lemons and made more than lemonade – they made a future for themselves while helping medical practices nationwide. Here’s how.

In 2000, the Purkisses were parents to three children under age 10 and business partners with a successful group of call centers. Their business allowed them to travel the world and help oversee the careers of more than 500 employees. Then, while the couple was getting ready for their annual company holiday party, Ed noticed a lump in Mary’s breast. He convinced Mary to get it checked out – just in case. “Your wife has breast cancer and we need to schedule a mastectomy immediately,” the doctor told a shocked Ed. Less than three weeks later, Mary was taken away for surgery and began a healing process and reconstruction process that required six surgeries and took two years. “We decided to sell our business to focus on both Mary’s cancer battle and the children,” Ed says. The entire family’s life revolved around doctors’ offices. It was there that Mary and Ed were continuously mystified at how busy the specialists and doctors were dealing with the business of cancer – and its technologies – and how it took precious time from patient care. Because they had experience running a business and were comfortable with rapidly changing technology, the Purkisses ended up as paid consultants to radiation oncology practices, eventually handling their doctors’ technology and electronic medical records needs as well. “Doctors got into business to save lives, not to deal with (technology),” said Mary. The Purkisses studied the issues doctors faced with “the cloud,” online storage and other technology issues. By 2008, the time seemed right to launch their own venture: Iron Medical Systems. In that first year, the Purkisses – working from their home – had three clinics as clients. By summer end – less than a decade later – the Purkisses will have grown the business to more than 70 clients and medical clinics or centers across the country. Their Iron Medical System cloud product allows physicians to work anywhere from any device. The system is built to run efficiently and backs up constantly. The cost of the system is lower than if clients bought the hardware themselves and tried to comprehend it all. It does not replace practice tech staff either – just helps them become more efficient. “We are actually in the process of expanding to the East Coast to keep up with all the work we have out there,” says Ed.