In the United States, 18 million kids under age 6 are at risk for permanent vision loss and vision-related setbacks, according to the American Optometric Association. Regular health clinics are often unable to afford the expensive equipment required to diagnose possible vision disorders.
Parents may not have good health insurance, and children may not know to speak up when something’s wrong.
When ophthalmologist Dr. David Huang learned that one of his mentors had discovered a way to test for eye cancer in children using flash photography, he thought he could use a similar technique to detect other forms of vision impairment.
“These issues are invisible to doctors, teachers, parents, and the child will go years with not seeing the whiteboard and missing on years on learning. There wasn’t an affordable way for pediatricians to detect these eye problems,” says Kevon Saber, who Dr. Huang brought on to serve as CEO for the eye screening startup he founded, GoCheck Kids.
GoCheck Kids is one of the first vision health iPhone apps registered with the FDA. When a child comes in for an annual pediatrician checkup, the technician takes an iPhone photo of the child from 3.5 feet away.
The GoCheck Kids app reviews the photo, assessing how light is reflected in the patient’s eye, and identifies risk factors with machine learning software.
If a risk factor like myopia, hyperopia, amblyopia (lazy eye), or another vision disorder is detected, it’s added to the child’s electronic health record and a referral is made to an eye specialist.
The app is most useful for children under age six that can’t communicate by looking at a vision testing wall chart. Saber explains that since children are often used to iPhone photos taken by their family, they typically remain calm during the screening.
The app also contains a digital version of the wall chart for when physicians travel, as well as a digital visual game for older kids that points to the left and right to screen for vision issues.
The Nashville-based healthcare startup charges the clinic or pediatrician directly via a SaaS model that includes unlimited screenings, the HIPAA-compliant screening phone, and access to an online portal. The pediatrician then gets reimbursed for the service by insurers.
Saber says their competitors are slower-moving, expensive enterprises that aren’t accustomed to the fast pace of software.
“We update our app every month to make it more effective and useful for doctors,” says Saber.
Upwards of 4,000 pediatricians have used the app and out of 900,000 kids, over 50,000 have seen identified risk factors.
Since 2014, the startup has raised $20 million in funding from investors including Salesforce founder Marc Benioff. Saber tells Hypepotamus that they’re working on raising their next round, which will go toward adding additional machine learning capabilities, electronic health record integrations, and staff. They currently have 25 employees.