If you're one of the more than 30 million people in the US who wear contact lenses, you know how inconvenient a trip to the doctor's office to update your prescription can be.
Joel Wishkovsky is one such contact-lens wearer who has long taken issue with regular visits to the doctor's office. As an entrepreneur and investor, Wishkovsky decided to innovate the optometry industry using the medium he knows best: Technology. What if contact lens wearers could visit a doctor, renew their prescription, and receive new shipments of contact lenses, all without ever leaving the comfort of their homes?
Along with his co-founder Ryan Quigley, Wishkovsky developed an eye test that determines whether or not a contact-lens wearer's prescription needs to be updated. Wishkovsky and Quigley's company, Simple Contacts, relies on the smartphone's front-facing camera for its two tests: one that determines eye redness, and another that lets the user know whether or not their vision has changed in any way.
For the second test, the app prompts users to take a video of themselves standing 10 feet away from their phone. The app relies on data from millions of Simple Contacts' accumulated eye-test videos, and can tell when a user is 10 feet away from their phone. Then, the app prompts users to read out the letters on a traditional eye test chart.
Once the eye test video is recorded, it's sent out to an eye doctor who decides whether or not the contact-lens wearer needs a new prescription. If a new prescription is needed, Wishkovsky says that users will have to make an in-person trip to update their prescription accurately. But if their vision hasn't changed, the doctor simply writes the wearer a new prescription which users can fulfill through the app within a few short days.
Wishkovsky said the app is taking off with both consumers and the doctors who write the prescriptions. The company lets both contact-lens wearers and doctors squeeze in time for each other at their personal convenience.
In one recorded video that was sent out to an eye doctor, Wishkovsky said a woman took her eye test at home while holding a newborn baby with three dogs jumping and barking around her.
"It was clearly an instance of someone who barely had time to squeeze in a few minutes to try out the app," said Wishkovsky. "Can you imagine this person getting all their stuff together to go to the doctor's office just so they can have new contact lenses?"
The doctors who write Simple Contacts' prescriptions are known to squeeze the exam reviews in when they have a spare moment as well, said Wishkovsky.
"They're reviewing eye exams while waiting for flights at the airport or when they're in line at the grocery store," said Wishkovsky. "We're finding a way to fit a trip to the doctor's office into peoples' lives in a way that works."
Last week, Simple Contacts received $16 million in new funding from Flatiron Health, Goodwater Capital, and a number of leading ophthalmologists.
Wishkovsky said that he has big ambitions for his company in the telemedicine industry beyond contact lenses; already, plans for birth control and dermatology applications are in the works.
"There's a lot of places in the healthcare industry where you can take a test easily and effectively online," said Wishkovsky. "For now, contact lenses are just an interesting place to start."
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