US-based startup EyeNetra has developed a device, the Netra-G adaptor which, when snapped on to your smartphone, can assess your vision without the need to go through a professional practitioner.
Could the ophthalmic optician’s job soon be obsolete? This is what the Massachusetts-based startup EyeNetra seems to be working towards. The company has developed a number of prototypes with the aim of enabling any and every person to measure his/her own vision. The stakes are high: the Netra-G could shake up a market which is worth €56 billion worldwide. All you have to do is to snap the device on to your smartphone and it does the same job as the autorefractors which are at present in use in ophthalmology. This equipment currently represents a very large investment both for medical practitioners and for the health sector in general.
Cutting down on consultations?
The device works in the following way. The user places his/her eye in a viewfinder and spins a dial to align the lines which appear on the screen of his/her smartphone. The software then analyses the user’s vision on the basis of the alignment deviations which it detects. Once launched in the United States, the startup could give the 40,000 ophthalmologists practising there some cause to worry that the number of consultations for which they are paid will fall noticeably. Explains Vitor Pamplona, co-founder and CTO of EyeNetra, who is a trained programmer: “We’re changing medicine by providing the user with the right to measure themselves,” adding: “We see doctors as more of a coach.” Such a development would certainly help to reduce the cost of doctors’ fees, which represent around 20% of total US health costs overall, and account for close to 3% of US GDP.
However, it seems likely that whatever happens, consultations with practitioners will remain indispensable, at least for more complex eye problems. In fact the manufacture of lenses for glasses is in any case not based solely on the refraction of the eye, which is the only parameter measured by Netra-G. In order to avoid concerns in the United States, the company has been carrying out its testing in India, where it may well prove easier to find a market. It is estimated that around 133 million people in India are blind or cannot see well because they are unable to have an ophthalmic examination or obtain vision aids.