“There are five of those that Wal-Mart has and we’re one of the pilot offices,” said Dr. Bill Baldwin, who serves as an optometrist at the Wal-Mart, which is on the North Expressway.
According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the Eyesite machine is the first product of SoloHealth, a Duluth-based company that is trying to take advantage of the growing popularity of self-service kiosks and the increasing “consumerization” of health care. The machine was one of the top 20 semifinalists in the 2008 Forbes.com “Boost Your Business” contest.
“I came up with the idea because there’s millions of people that need vision correction who don’t realize they need it,” said Bart Foster, chief executive officer of SoloHealth and inventor of the EyeSite machine.
He said that according to Prevent Blindness America, there are 12 million people who could have benefited from vision correction who do not know it and 30 million people who are at serious risk of developing eye disease who did not get an eye exam.
“The reason is our eyesight deteriorates so slowly over time that you don’t realize your vision is changing,” he said.
He said the purpose of the EyeSite machine is to educate people about their vision and get them to see an eye doctor.
Baldwin said the machine was installed about two weeks ago. He estimates that 80 to 90 people have used it already, and, as a result, five have come to see him. It turns out that one person had cataracts, one or two were nearsighted and others simply had declining vision due to age.
“I haven’t had anything dramatic where we’ve saved someone’s eyes,” he said.
The work he has done, however, has improved the patients’ quality of life.
Baldwin said he likes having the machine in the store.
“It’s nice that a small town like us can be the pilot for something new and innovative,” he said.
He said the machine provides a good service for the people of Griffin and has prompted people to seek attention for problems they may not have been aware of.
However, being part of a pilot program is a mixed blessing. Baldwin said they’re still working the bugs out, including the tendency of the machine to jam when printing out the test results.
He emphasized that the machine does not replace a professional eye doctor but can provide more information about one’s health and discover a vision problem earlier.
“A lot of people don’t realize they don’t see well,” Baldwin said.
He said people get used to the situation, particularly if they are developing cataracts.
He also said family history is important - someone who has a family history of eye problems could be vulnerable to future difficulties even if he or she passes an eye test on the machine.