Despite its status as an essential postoperative safety eye product and its utilization by every ocular surgeon with every ocular surgery, eye shield innovation has been neglected to date.
As surprising as it may seem to any ophthalmologist reading this article, the simple postoperative eye shield has not seen—pardon the pun—any significant innovation for centuries. Despite its status as an essential postoperative safety eye product and its utilization by every ocular surgeon with every ocular surgery on the planet, eye shield innovation has been neglected to date. Postoperative eye shields can be uncomfortable, difficult to remove and/or replace for patients at home and may inhibit airflow to the eye. These problems may lower patient compliance and affect surgical outcomes. More than 50% of patients state the current eye shields using tape are uncomfortable and cumbersome. Complaints range from tape discomfort and reduced eye ventilation to inconvenience while removing and replacing the shield.1
As a physician entrepreneur (or doctorpreneur, as I prefer to be called), I strive to use my skills and ingenuity to create something that will benefit my patients. I knew that I had to develop a new eye shield to advance a vital part of the surgical experience for patients. As someone who has invented products in the past,2 including the Mali Eyeglass Holder, I understood the process of taking an idea, developing it into an invention, obtaining a patent, navigating the manufacturing process, executing a marketing strategy, and building a successful company and brand.
One of the keys of the entrepreneurial process is building a fantastic team who can execute a business plan successfully. Through a friend, I contacted Intermed Labs, a startup studio in Morgantown, West Virginia. Intermed Labs is a startup studio/innovation lab that helps physicians at all idea stages bring their ideas to the market. At a very high level, a startup studio, also called a venture builder, is an organization that identifies problems, creates a viable solution with an existing experienced team, and then builds a new company around the solution. Intermed Labs provided me with the critical bridge from my idea to a market-ready device with appropriate cost of goods, engineering, patents, supply chain, and distribution avenues. Organizational structures such as this allow those of us in practice to take our real-world experience and develop tangible advancements to better our patients’ experiences, healing, and lives.
Our extensive technological advances with premium IOLs, microinvasive glaucoma surgery, and retinal instrumentation have far outpaced our focus on simple essential advances in our most highly important and most frequently used surgical products. SNAPS Eye Shield is a simple yet innovative postoperative eye shield that is comfortable, easy to place, removable, and reusable (Figure). In a nutshell, SNAPS Eye Shields do not require tape and do not rest directly on the skin as do traditional eye shields. SNAPS are packaged with adhesive anchors with clever snaps that affix the shield to the patient’s face. The SNAPS design solves a number of inconvenient problems with traditional shields. For example, the plastic does not sit directly on the skin, which improves patient comfort by preventing moisture buildup from sweating.
Additionally, because no tape is used over the holes in the shield, there is less fogging and improved visibility. Most importantly for patients, SNAPS can flip down without removing the adhesive from the skin in order to examine the eye or place standard postoperative eye drops: no more skin irritation or damage due to placement and removal of tape multiple times.
SNAPS is a patented and FDA-registered Class 1 medical device (the only current eye shield on the market with this designation).3 By simplifying patient experiences and creating a better overall healing process, we can further encourage and support patients along their treatment journeys, ultimately empowering us to better serve our communities and provide the highest level of care.
In summary, I am proud to have developed the SNAPS Eye Shield as a new premium post-surgical eye shield that can be easily placed or removed, and that requires no tape. The clear acrylic shield is very comfortable to wear, is highly stable on the face, provides excellent airflow, and allows easy access for examination or drops. With the improvements, I believe that the ophthalmology community can continue our work of providing patients with the valuable vision-saving procedures we offer and eliminate further postoperative discomfort and stress. My hope is that this improved device will provide patients with a safer solution and advance their recovery speed and experience.
Joshua Mali, MD, FASRS
Mali is a board-certified ophthalmologist and award-winning vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates in Sarasota, Florida. He is also the founder and CEO of Mali Enterprises. Mali’s relevant financial disclosures include the following: SNAPS (equity owner), Mali Enterprises (founder, CEO, owner).