Google Glass teams with insurer for RX lenses

The new Google Glass prescription frames rest on a table at the Google Glass Basecamp space at Chelsea Market, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in New York. AP Photo/John Minchillo

Recently, Google Glass has been a controversial topic in the news, from driving bans to a bizarre attack on a woman who wore the device into a bar. Nevertheless, the product's impending launch is generating plenty of buzz about innovation and potential breakthrough technology. CBS MoneyWatch recently spoke to someone who'll be part of it.

Jim McGrann is president of VSP Vision Care, a vision insurance provider with 60 million-plus members (and a network of 30,000 eye doctors) that has partnered with Google Glass. Among other things, the relationship will focus on providing prescriptions to the 40 percent of Google Glass users who will need corrective lenses. Here's what he had to say:

CBS MoneyWatch: Why do you think Glass is taking so much heat right now (i.e. driving tickets, bans from restaurants, etc.)?

Jim McGrann: Any time new technology is introduced into the marketplace it has some growing pains. The majority of consumers are still unfamiliar with it now, but the technology will become more accepted over time. I definitely see a future for this device in the optometric profession as a new tool in the provision of care, in the running of the practice from a business standpoint and eventually as an eyewear product for our patients.

MW: Can you please expand on VSP's relationship with Google Glass?

JM: VSP Global companies [of which VSP Vision Care is one] have helped to provide Google with access to experts in all facets of the optical industry. As of today, we're training doctors to properly fit Google Glass, and we have insurance offerings that will cover the prescription and frames for Google Glass Explorers.

In short, our role is to be a resource for Google, to help them understand the entire process from start to finish as they develop and offer optical-related technologies.

MW: Is that the future, then -- for "wearables" like Glass to be covered by insurance?

JM: Absolutely. From the optical standpoint alone, eyecare is a unique industry that brings together both the medical and fashion world -- and technology is making the possibilities endless. We have daily discussions with our clients, many of whom are Fortune 500 companies, about the need to lower healthcare costs for employees and the emergence of very strong wellness programs. Wearables, especially in this space, are something that can help individuals manage their health.

MW: As president of VSP, what is one thing you do every day to promote success?

JM: When I worked at IBM, the company president wanted everyone to rally around the word "think." He wanted the employees to think before diving into work at the start of the day.

When I became president of VSP, I set our theme as "focus." I start my day by focusing on our overall strategy for the company, which consists of thinking about and acting on three key areas: our members, our doctors and our employees.

MW: Your background is in engineering, not just business. How has this helped you succeed in your current role?

JM: Being president of a company and having a very strong background in IT helps me to make better decisions about where we need to move as a company and where to best allocate funds to help us get there. I do rely on experts, but having an engineering background helps give me perspective in making better-informed decisions to keep us on track.

I believe we will see more presidents and CEOs over time with similar backgrounds as it will be necessary to have a true understanding of how technology works, and the risks and opportunities associated with that technology.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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