Online Eye Exam Site Shakes Up Vision Healthcare

MAY 26, 2016
Amy Jacob
It can sometimes seem like there truly is an app for everything these days. From tools that monitor how many steps the user takes each day to applications that assess sleep patterns, physicians and patients have a wide array of choices that can help them maintain good health.
Chicago-based company Opternative has recently forayed into the healthcare application sphere with online eye exams.
Co-founders Aaron Dallek, CEO and Steven Lee, OD, were simply searching for ways to offer eye exams online.
The website asks questions about the patients’ eyes and overall health, but also wants to know their shoe size to ensure they’re positioned at the correct distance from the computer monitor. The test takers are required to hold their smartphones and use the web browser to answer questions about what they see on the computer screen.
And, similar to a traditional eye exam, there are shapes, lines, and letters – the test takes approximately 30 minutes.
A total of 65,000 patients have signed up for the test thus far.
While the exam itself is free, there is a $40 fee to have a doctor from the patient’s home state review the online results and email any necessary prescription for glasses or contacts.
In spite of the accessibility, many eye care professionals and government officials have voiced their concerns about the process.
According to Minty Nguyen, OD, Eyeclectic Vision Source, Atlanta, GA, there is no substitute for going to an eye doctor. “And again, it’s not for me to make any more money as an optometrist. It just kind of encourages patients to neglect the health portion of their exams, which is key. You don’t want to go blind. It’s one of your most important senses,” Nguyen said.
Although Opternative is currently available in at least 34 US states, it is heavily monitored. Indiana just outlawed and Michigan sent the company a “cease-and-desist order”.
Additionally, Georgia’s state Rep. Earl Ehrhart doesn’t think computers and shoe sizes should be involved in eye exams. “I think our trained optometric doctors under their current protocols and our ophthalmologists go a little bit further than the shoe standard.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology had shown its support, saying the test is best used for patients, age 18-39 years, as a complement to regular eye doctor visits who want to update their prescriptions.
Dallek and team explained the company was never intended to replace a full eye exam, instead recommending patients to get their comprehensive eye health exam at least every two years and using the online test for easy follow-up.

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