Opternative gets $6 million for smartphone-based home eye exam

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Opternative, an optometry-focused telemedicine service that lets users get their prescriptions online after taking an app- and website-based vision test, has raised $6 million in first round funding, bringing the company's total funding to $9.5 million.

Jump Capital led the round with additional participation from Tribeca Venture Partners, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Chicago Ventures, Craig Duchossois, Corazon Capital (Sam Yagan), NextGen Venture Partners and others.

"We’ve created the most convenient, accessible, and affordable way of geting a prescription for glasses and contacts," CEO Aaron Dallek told MobiHealthNews. "We’re here to help patients get better access to eye care."

The company launched its services last summer. Opternative's vision test uses both a smartphone app and the computer screen. The screen acts as the eye chart, while the smartphone prompts the user to answer questions and records their answers. Dallek says the test, which is FDA registered as a Class I device, is accurate and robust.

"We’ve done an independent clinical trial that’s proven that our technology is statistically equivalent [to an office visit] and our satisfaction is over 99 percent with the prescriptions that are dispensed from our service to date. So we are very confident that patients will get a prescription they’re satisifed with using our technology," Dallek said. "We have a very easy to use experience that walks you through the exam with both audio and written instructions. It walks you thorugh each part to make sure you’re at the right distance, covering your eye, and as long as you follow the instructions, our exam is desinged in a way to produce an accurate result. There are verification steps and systems in place to identify issues and to kind of verify people’s prescription in multiple ways."

Opternative lets users take the test for free, but charges them $40 to $60 for the prescription, which they can then take to an online or offline optician of their choice for glasses or contact lenses. The online test only provides a prescription, so Opternative encourages users visit an in-person optometrist for a full eye health exam every two years, and won't allow them to use the service more than four years in a row without an in-person visit. 

The four-year-old Chicago-based company boasts 40,000 patient signups so far and availability in 33 states. They'll use the funding to grow their team and push out to additional states -- they're aiming for 46 by the end of the year. Currently they only offer vision tests to people between 18 and 40 years old, but they hope to expand that range with the new funding as well.

A number of companies in the space have attempted to use mobile technology to bring the eye exam home. One, Vital Art and Science, has an FDA-cleared app but has opted to use it in partnership with health systems and pharma companies rather than go direct-to-consumer.

Last year, New York City-based Smart Vision Labs, which has developed a smartphone-based autorefractor for vision testing, raised $6.1 million. The device uses wavefront aberrometry to measure refractive errors, which determines the patient’s prescription.

In addition, eye diagnostic tool maker EyeNetra launched a service in April 2015 called Blink, which sends a staffer to user’s home for vision tests, in New York City. Blink emphasizes that the appointments are only for users who need to be tested for glasses, not for eye health exams. The test costs $75 for one person, $130 for two people, or $170 for three people.

A month later, Warby Parker, an online eyeglass retailer, announced that they were investing in technology that allows consumers to conduct smartphone-based eye exams. The news came shortly after Warby Parker raised $100 million in a round led by T. Rowe Price — the company is now valued at $1.2 billion.