In eye care clinics all over the world, people suffer from troublesome eye issues made even more difficult to diagnose and treat in remote areas. Peek – the Portable Eye Examination Kit – brings affordable and easy-to-use eye tests to anywhere in the world, even in places where professional eye care is scarce. Peek’s retina technology slips neatly over a smartphone’s in-built camera, converting the everyday device into a professional grade retinal camera. With the Peek app, users can hold the phone close to someone’s eye and see an auto-focus of the retina on the phone screen. The app sends images to a team of specialist so diagnoses can be made remotely.
“This high image quality means you can view cataracts clearly enough for treatment classification,” says Stewart Jordan, co-founder of Peek Vision. “We can detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease.”
Using an ophthalmoscope can be difficult and time-consuming, but the technology makes eye examinations as easy as taking a photo.
When Peek Vision began, the company’s founders wanted to serve all the world’s 39 million people with impaired vision, giving high quality eye care to everyone, not just those with access to professional care. So they turned to a novel and increasingly popular platform: crowdfunding.
Of the crowdfunding platforms available today, the largest is Indiegogo. Founded in 2008, Indiegogo supports many different initiatives, powering anyone anywhere to support projects that matter to them. The company focuses on creative initiatives such as art as well as technology innovation in medicine, education and cause-related initiatives.
“Indiegogo can be used as a market validation tool,” says Remi Harrad, public relations manager at Indiegogo. “[Members] can use the campaign tools to reach an audience to test prices, features and more. You can receive feedback to see if other people like a product or idea.”
In the case of medical technology like Peek, many companies already have a user testing base and are often prototyping technology. Indiegogo amplifies campaigns — 300,000 and counting — to reach a broader audience.
But a growing number of campaigns support personal causes of which more than fifty percent represent medical needs. In response to the trend, Indiegogo launched Indiegogo Life in December 2014. The new site is equipped with features that make personal fundraising personal, effective, and even easier to use. In some cases, people need to create campaigns from a remote location, and they can do so using their mobile phones.
“It takes eight clicks to make a fundraiser,” Harrad says. “We have dropped the fee to start a campaign through Indiegogo Life and make sure that all funds raised go directly to patients.”
Innovators pushing forward in technology are changing the way we look at healthcare. Using crowdfunding sites can help these innovators interact with the public and the specific people who would benefit from different technologies. These interactions avoid a removed process; people can be directly involved in the campaign and the technology.
For Peek Retina, funds raised through Indiegogo offset the overall costs of manufacturing and design so that the product could be produced at a larger scale. Currently, the company is on track to ship Peek Retina for October 2015 in part thanks to the estimated $200,000 it raised.
The key benefits of crowdfunding in healthcare innovation are tapping into the market, understanding if an idea resonates with people and attracting partnerships within the space.
“It’s a great tool to get the word out,” says Harrad. “Using Indiegogo means telling the story about your cause and using that to attract a global eye.”
Soniya Shah is an on-staff contributing writer at MedTech Boston. She's a senior at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing a BS in technical writing. She has experience as a ghost writer and medical writer, and in developing software documentation.
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