Because of risk factors such as race, age and family history, nearly 30 million Americans were at high risk for vision loss last year, but did not have their eyes examined by an eye care professional. Bart Foster, CEO of new ATDC member company SoloHealth, wants to change that statistic.
“On average, Americans get their teeth cleaned once or twice a year, but only get a regular eye exam once every three to four years. According to a recent study by Prevent Blindness America, the cost of vision loss in the United States is $51 billion a year,” Foster said. “We have developed a self-service vision test that will educate people on the importance of eye health and motivate them to see their eye care professional on a more frequent basis. It is not, however, a substitute for an eye examination with an eye care professional.”
SoloHealth’s inaugural product, dubbed EyeSite™, is powered by sophisticated software and an interactive video interface. After entering demographic information into the machine, users are asked a series of questions to measure both their near and distance vision. SoloHealth, a spinoff company of CIBA VISION, plans to install EyeSite kiosks in high-traffic locations including malls, drugstores and department stores.
“EyeSite provides a customized report of a person’s test results and directs them to see an eye care professional in their area,” said Foster, noting that the high-tech concept is similar to blood pressure machines found in drugstores. In addition to the test results, the report provides maps to a nearby doctor’s office and offers coupons in an effort to increase traffic for eye care practitioners.
EyeSite has a number of benefits for consumers, who on average spend $296 per visit at the eye doctor. The free test can potentially save sight and improve vision by alerting individuals to eyesight problems it detects. Consumers are also educated about various ocular diseases and conditions, and are directed to schedule a complete eye examination with an eye care professional.
According to Foster, SoloHealth is capitalizing on three major growth trends: Consumer-driven health care, digital signage and retail kiosks. Currently, an EyeSite prototype is being tested in a Super Wal-Mart north of Atlanta.
SoloHealth’s revenue will come from those who benefit most: the eye care professionals who see more patients and the manufacturers who sell more products. Foster first conceived the idea for EyeSite and SoloHealth while at Duluth-based CIBA VISION, the eye care unit of Novartis AG. He received the company’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for his efforts.
Foster became involved with ATDC when SoloHealth was selected as one of 15 technology companies to participate in the CapVenture Program, a comprehensive fundraising boot camp designed to equip CEOs with business and funding strategy. Only 15 of 100 companies that applied were chosen to participate.
“The CapVenture course was phenomenal for me and my company, and a catalyst to get us to where we are now,” he said. “We are delighted that ATDC has welcomed SoloHealth into its prestigious ranks. Being affiliated with this program offers SoloHealth a treasure of collective experience and leadership that we can draw from as we take our business to the next level.”
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Writer: Nancy Fullbright