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Acuity Eyecare Group Completes 12 Acquisitions in 4 States

It now owns 140 practices.

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DALLAS — Acuity Eyecare Group has recently completed 12 acquisitions in four states, totaling 22 eyecare practices.

AEG, a portfolio company of Riata Capital Group, now owns and operates approximately 140 practices across 11 states, according to a press release. It has another 30 practices under letter of intent.

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In 2019, the company completed 30 acquisitions, representing 60 practices.

Acuity’s new acquisitions are located in Arizona, Tennessee, Texas and Ohio. The groups and practices “are complementary to AEG’s market positioning as a community-based doctor-centric eyecare platform that provides full-scope optometric services and a comprehensive selection of lenses, frames and contacts lenses,” according to the release.

Acuity Eyecare Group also announced that it is rebranding to AEG Vision, “a name that better reflects the Company’s commitment to full-scope medical optometry and improving patient outcomes.” The rebranding includes a redesign of the company’s website, logo, graphics and communications.

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“We are excited with the development of AEG Vision, an eyecare platform positioned as a caring community of local providers that helps our neighbors take care of their vision, one patient at a time,” said Eric Anderson, CEO of AEG Vision. “Our approach is to be collaborative with independent eyecare professionals and eyecare groups. And increasingly as we emphasize full-scope medical optometry, along with delivering an exceptional retail experience for patients and customers, our message is increasingly resonating with the market.”

Jeff Fronterhouse, managing partner of Riata Capital Group, said, “We are excited to continue AEG’s momentum into 2020. AEG Vision has now established presence and is focused on building density in 11 states. To support this growth, AEG has been systematically adding resources to its field support, operations, and integration teams. Importantly, we are transitioning all practices acquired to a common POS, practice management, EHR systems platform.

“Ultimately, we are building the business to support steady acquisition-led growth, and remain enthusiastic about achieving our stated goal of building AEG into a 250-300 location market-leading eyecare platform.”

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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This Smart Contact Lens Changes Colors If You Have Certain Eye Problems

It could be a boon for point-of-care diagnosis.

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A research group in China has developed a “smart” contact lens that can show real-time changes in moisture and pressure by changing colors. The lens can potentially be used for point-of-care diagnosis of xerophthalmia and high intraocular pressure disease, according to a press release.

Early diagnosis is important for avoiding severe eye problems such as exophthalmia, which causes relatively mild symptoms, and glaucoma, which may lead to loss of vision. Such diagnoses depend on “facile and reliable monitoring of several features with significant pathologic relevance, such as the amount of tears and intraocular pressure,” notes the release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

However, current methods “usually require complex procedures and instruments operated by professionals, causing difficulties for point-of-care ophthalmic health monitoring.”

The “smart” contact lens “features periodic nanostructures within the poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) hydrogel matrix, resulting in bright, tunable structural colors ranging from red to green to blue,” according to the release.

This structurally colored contact lens sensor is made solely from a biocompatible hydrogel, without the addition of any chemical pigments, “thus exhibiting superior biosafety and comfort for wearable applications.”

“Importantly, the spacing of periodic nanostructures within the pHEMA hydrogel are sensitive to changes in moisture and pressure, leading to real-time color changes in the ‘smart’ contact lens,” according to the release.

“Based on these features, the ‘smart’ contact lens was explored as a means for monitoring xerophthalmia and high intraocular pressure disease. In normal eye-simulation conditions, its color will not change over time; while its color changes from red to blue in the xerophthalmia-simulation condition in about 25 minutes,” said Zhao Qilong, first author of the study.

The work was led by Professor Du Xuemin from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“This study provides a novel and smart wearable device for timely and facile warning of the risks of xerophthalmia and high intraocular pressure disease. It will also inspire the design of a new generation of wearable devices with colorimetric sensing capabilities for real-time POC monitoring of various human body signs and diseases,” said Du.

The results were published in Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

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Be My Eyes Raises $2.8M in Funding for App to Support Blind and Visually Impaired

It’s using a ‘purpose and profit’ business model.

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SAN FRANCISCO — Be My Eyes, the mobile app that allows anyone to assist visually impaired people through live video calls, has raised $2.8 million in funding. The investment allows the company to further develop its “purpose and profit” business model while keeping the visual support service free and unlimited for all visually impaired users, according to a press release.

The Series A round, led by Cultivation Capital, also welcomed new board members Paul Weber (Cultivation Capital) and Michael Buckley (angel investor and former vice president of global communications at Facebook). Be My Eyes has previously been backed by angels and investment funding from the likes of Singularity University, the founders of Zendesk and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco.

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Be My Eyes solves a simple problem for users: It calls up a real person, on demand, to describe what’s in front of a blind user’s camera. Initially supported entirely by volunteers, Be My Eyes recently announced that it would begin partnering with companies to provide expert-level support through a new feature in the app (Specialized Help). Microsoft signed on as Be My Eyes’ first video support partner in 2018, followed by Google, Lloyds Banking Group, and Procter & Gamble, who now all provide video customer support to the BME community, which spans more than 175 countries. Companies can provide Specialized Help globally or by region, and support services are free to Be My Eyes users.

“In call centers around the world, we’ve seen the Be My Eyes software greatly reduce ticket handling times and increase satisfaction rates, from both support agents and blind or low vision callers,” says Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, chief commercial officer at Be My Eyes. “What’s more, each call that a company receives brings attention to parts of the product or service that can be designed more inclusively.”

Kyndra LoCoco, partner and programs manager at Google Accessibility, added, “The Google Disability Support team is thrilled to be building a more accessible support experience through the Be My Eyes app. It’s our hope that others join us on this journey.”

With a community of users that has doubled in size each year since 2015, Be My Eyes’ “micro-volunteering” platform “has become beloved amongst blind and sighted users alike,” according to the release.

“Fueled by inspiring stories and viral social media posts of strangers connecting across oceans to help one another, the small startup has amassed what amounts to the world’s largest global community of visually impaired people (almost 200,000), and a volunteer community many times that size (more than 3.5M).”

“Be My Eyes is a great example of how technology can help bring communities together and empower people who are blind or with low vision,” says Neil Barnett, director of inclusive hiring and accessibility at Microsoft. “By working together with Be My Eyes, their incredible sighted volunteers, and the growing community of organizations participating in the Specialized Help program, we can help more people around the world live independent lives. We are honored to be part of this vibrant community and provide support for all of their customers through our Disability Answer Desk services.”

“As we grow and age, we all need help seeing at some point,” says Be My Eyes CEO Christian Erfurt, who co-founded the company with a legally blind craftsman named Hans Jørgen Wiberg in 2014. “It’s been a pleasure to see that not only do people want to give their time to support this large population – but companies want to make their customer service offerings more accessible. For them, we’ve built a simple but beautiful tool.”

Erfurt says the corporate partnership business model was conceived so that Be My Eyes will never have to charge blind users for the service. “We believe that access to sight is a human right, and you don’t charge people for that.”

Watch a video about the service:

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Alcon’s Pataday Eye Allergy Meds Get FDA Nod for Nonprescription Use

They’ll no longer be sold as prescription drugs.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two Alcon eye allergy products for over-the-counter use through a process called a “prescription (Rx)-to-OTC switch.”

The FDA gave the OK to these medications for nonprescription use:

  • Pataday Twice Daily Relief (olopatadine HCl ophthalmic solution/drops, 0.1%) for the temporary relief of itchy and red eyes due to pollen, ragweed, grass, animal hair or dander.
  • Pataday Once Daily Relief (olopatadine HCl ophthalmic solution/drops, 0.2%) for the temporary relief of itchy eyes due to pollen, ragweed, grass, animal hair or dander.

“As a result of the Rx-to-OTC switch process, many products sold over-the-counter today use ingredients or dosage strengths that were available only by prescription 30 years ago,” said Karen Mahoney, MD, acting deputy director of the Office of Nonprescription Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Approval of a wider range of nonprescription drugs has the potential to improve public health by increasing the types of drugs consumers can access and use that would otherwise only be available by prescription. This includes providing the millions of people that suffer with joint pain from arthritis daily over-the-counter access to another non-opioid treatment option.”

For a drug to switch to nonprescription status, the data provided must demonstrate that the drug is safe and effective for use in self-medication as directed in proposed labeling. The manufacturer must show that consumers can understand how to use the drug safely and effectively without the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Pataday Twice Daily Relief was first approved by the FDA in 1996 under the name Patanol as a prescription drug and was indicated for the treatment of the signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis (referring to ocular redness and itching due to allergies). Pataday – now Pataday Once Daily Relief – was first approved by the FDA in 2004 as a prescription drug and was indicated for the treatment of ocular itching associated with allergic conjunctivitis. These drugs are mast cell stabilizers, which work by preventing the release of histamine and therefore prevent or control allergic disorders.

The products will be marketed in the U.S. as nonprescription drugs and will no longer be available as prescription drugs.

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