Network Eye opens clinic inside major Westchase retailer

The subspecialty eye clinic is on a mission to prevent vision loss and promote health equity in the Tampa Bay community.

For most businesses, innovation is integral to success. But for Network Eye, an eye clinic, it is the foundation of the company. Founded in 2019, by entrepreneurs Jeremy Kirsch, Steven Wisch and physician retina specialist physicians David Eichenbaum and Lindsay Smithen, Network Eye is set to change the paradigm of health care delivery for vision services.

The company’s mission is to “make top-quality retina care more accessible for Americans living with diabetes and macular degeneration, empowering them on a path to healthier eyes and a better quality of life.”

The health care model is based on education, and ease of access, for often underserved populations in the community. It uses behavioral science to increase patient uptake and an FDA-approved, leading-edge, artificial intelligence-based screening technology to simplify the vision diagnostic process.

A patient can walk into a retail, or mobile, location and, in less than five minutes, receive a diagnostic result without eye dilation or waiting in line. Most Americans don’t understand diabetes and macular degeneration are the two leading causes of blindness that are preventable. Treated by a Network Eye, board-certified, fellowship-trained physician can help, following a retina disease diagnosis in the clinic.

Wisch, co-founder and executive chairman, says, “Health care in America was changing prior to COVID. COVID then helped speed up necessary change. More and more people were being educated, and treated, inside primary care retail settings and COVID vaccinations became commonplace. Thus, patients have gained comfort, and confidence, being treated in a more accessible retail setting. This has opened new pathways to treatment including subspecialty health care. Network Eye is focused on the treatment of retina disease for people with diabetes, and those over the age of 60, to help prevent blindness.”

Network Eye chose Tampa as a pilot market before it plans to expand its mobile and retail locations nationwide. CVS uses Tampa as one of its five test markets and, judging from the ribbon-cutting ceremony that took place on Feb. 20 in Westchase, it was an exciting opening event for the community. U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, Hillsborough County Commissioner Harry Cohen and Eichenbaum, a St. Petersburg retina specialist and co-founder of Network Eye, spoke at the opening of the clinic in the CVS location.

Wisch said, “The entire Tampa community has welcomed us with open arms, and we are delighted that we chose Tampa as the pilot market. We make great use of our mobile clinic and go directly into the local community: churches, health care events, assisted living homes, for example, where we educate and screen patients for diabetic retinopathy. We are intensely focused on simple, clear education which is absolutely crucial to successful patient outcomes. The Network Eye team is very excited about improving health care in America for all, with a particular focus on underserved communities. We are starting in Tampa, but we hope to soon expand to other parts of Florida and, over time, all 50 U.S. states.”

Currently, the U.S. health care industry spends approximately $10 billion annually to treat retina conditions. Network Eye co-founders saw an opportunity for a market that remains highly underserved today, especially with legacy technology and outdated health practices. Recent studies have shown statistics such as 40% of diabetics reporting that they do not get an annual diabetic eye screening and 50% of those patients diagnosed with diabetes never follow up with treatment.

Such statistics are proof that practices such as Network Eye are an industry gamechanger.

“Typically, when a patient gets a diabetes eye exam, the eyes are dilated and a photograph is taken of the back of the eye and then sent to a lab for interpretation with results available 24 to 48 hours later,” Wisch says. We use [artificial intelligence]-enabled technology, which does not require eye dilation, and the result is available in less than five minutes and at lower cost. We then educate patients who have pathology and explain why they need to see a retina specialist, then we make an appointment with our retina specialist inside CVS. This efficient process facilitates a higher probability of patients obtaining treatment (fewer dropped balls) and we can help delay the onset of blindness for many years.

“Our goal is to treat people with respect and dignity and to make health care more accessible, more friendly, lower cost and high quality. It is a win-win for all the patients—most important, the doctor, the payers, the retailer and the health care industry.”

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