The Boston startup Project 2020 aims to make it easier to get annual eye exams and basic preventive care, using the mobile clinic housed in its "eye truck" to bring services to the patients. It avoids all sorts of hassles, including having to drive after pupils have been dilated, said Alexa Baggio, director of operations.
"We take a headache-inducing process and reduce it to 15 minutes, while increasing the quality of care," said Baggio.
Is this the next step in a broadly defined "mobile health"?
We're living in a convenience economy. Whether it's mobile car detailers, manicures, or pet groomers, it's easier to bring services directly to homes or businesses. Project 2020 is onsite optometry; the eye doctor comes to your office.
Project 2020 has been called a food truck for the optometry industry. What do you think of that comparison?
I love food trucks and don't think that analogy is a negative thing. If there is a belief that getting an eye exam in a truck is a subpar experience, we've done everything possible to combat that idea. We work out of a state-of-the-art facility. It's actually more equipped than a lot of retail shops.
When you bring the optometrist to the patient, what's the vehicle equipped with?
On board are two technicians and a licensed optometrist, and the process is super-efficient, from the registration to diagnosis. The equipment "talks" to one another, whether it's the autorefractor that takes the measurement of refractive status, or the high definition retinal camera that snaps a picture of the blood vessel and nerve behind your eyes.
Did you run into licensing or permitting issues with the truck?
This is uncharted territory and it's not a small endeavor to put together a mobile setting to serve patients. There are aspects one might never think of, such as bathrooms. sinks, and running water.
For almost a year, Project 20 20 has brought vision care to some of the area's largest employers. How has it been received?
We've been rolling around to Wayfair, Sapient, Forrester Research, Broad Institute, and others, and had an incredible reaction. Project 2020 is in network with all major vision plans, so it's a free benefit for employees. We make our money from copayments and insurance reimbursements.
Do you wear glasses yourself?
I wear dark-rimmed Guccis; I don't have a very high prescription, but it takes the strain off my eyes when I'm staring at the computer 14 hours a day. I like to joke, "Why see the world in low-definition when I can see it in high-def?"