The last time I spoke to the GlobeChek team was (almost) a year ago when I featured them in my article ‘Celebrating World Sight Day with 5 Extraordinary Ophthalmic Companies’.
Back then they were a start up with the goal of bringing accessible and affordable eye care to everyone, with their portable tele-ophthalmology eye screening kiosk - the Globe.
But COVID-19 has made the world in 2020 look very different to what anyone could have expected.
That’s why I wanted to catch up with GlobeChek’s CEO William Mallon again to understand the effect that the pandemic has had on his start-up and the entire industry. Dr Mallon has been a practiced ophthalmologist for over 20 years and is the founder of his own clinic ‘The Center for Advanced Eye Care in Florida’, so has valuable insight into the challenges faced by today’s medical device manufacturers and clinicians.
The pandemic has stretched hospital and practice resources, meaning that they aren’t able to treat the same number of eyecare patients that they once were. This is dangerous for people with degenerative issues like AMD, which if left untreated could lead to permanent blindness.
That’s not all. Many traditional eyecare practices have had to close because they are unable to treat patients safely amid the pandemic.
Even the practices that have been able to use personal protective equipment and implemented sanitation stations to stay open have struggled. Dr Mallon highlighted that convincing patients that it’s safe to come and get examined has been challenging.
To combat these issues, there’s been a significant uptake in the use of telemedicine – which allows patients to be treated with minimal contact between them and the examiner. This approach is something that’s been advocated by Dr. Mallon and his business partner Dr. Adam Katz (GlobeChek COO and President) for years through GlobeChek.
Now all of a sudden, with COVID-19, it’s broken down those barriers. People are now more open to telemedicine, in fact everybody’s open to it, everyone is talking about tele-eyecare and it’s now become the focus of the entire industry.
As well as its benefits, the uptake of telemedicine in the US has been supported by Medicare and insurers that are reimbursing patients for it like never before. This has led to an eyecare arms race with practices around the world trying to adapt their businesses to embrace tele-medicine.
Early adopters of telemedicine, like Dr Mallon’s practice in Florida, are already benefiting. The Center for Advanced Eye Care in Florida has had GlobeChek installed for a while, meaning it’s been able to virtually eliminate face-to-face contact in eye tests, providing accessible and safer tests for patients.
GlobeChek’s technology is one of the leading telemedicine devices in eye care. With 11 individual eye tests integrated into the Globe, it is able to detect the four leading causes of blindness in the US: glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and cataracts. The device has also been proven in one study to be capable of detecting eye conditions in close to 50% of patients. Original estimates of the incidence of asymptomatic disease was approximately 20%.
GlobeCheck examinations are safe and efficient (taking less than 10 minutes to complete). They operate without touching the eye and don’t require any contact with the examiner - who is separated from the patient by a protective screen. This reduces the chances of transmitting viruses.
Once the exam is completed, the patient’s results are uploaded to a portal where the doctor can analyze them. They then provide feedback to the patient via video/phone call. If the exam diagnoses a disease, that can be self-managed by the patient or the doctor can email a prescription to the patient.
Being safe and efficient, GlobeChek is ready to help hospitals and practices globally.
Their Globe is about to be installed in one of the busiest VA hospitals in the US, whose current patient capacity is only 25% of what it was before COVID-19. Dr Mallon believes that, with the help of GlobeChek’s device, the hospital could reach full capacity again – similar to the effect the device has had on his practice.
This means resources will be less stretched and doctors will be able to prioritize patients who need physical treatment, while keeping COVID-19 exposure to a minimum.
Speaking with Dr Mallon and having spoken to numerous members of the GlobeChek team, it's clear they’re passionate about patient safety and accessibility.
Dr Mallon recalled when the GlobeChek team took their portable device to a borough of Northern Manhattan, 27% of these residents lived below the poverty line and 57% had never seen an eye doctor in their life. There, GlobeChek screened over 300 patients, detecting a sight threatening eye disease or condition in over a third of the patients.
That’s not all they’ve been doing to make eye care more accessible. Mechanical changes have also been made to the Globe, allowing it to fit through a 3ft door. This means you can take it from shopping malls to schools and other locations with ease.
Having Globes installed in three private practices, the future looks bright for GlobeChek. They are now in the final rounds of fundraising and once that capital is secured, they plan to expand rapidly to meet the increased telemedicine demand.
If you would like to learn more about GlobeChek, are interested in working for them or would like to talk about your future in the eye care sphere; please give me an email at email@example.com.
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