Rise in popularity of online vision exams has your local eye doctor seeing red

online eye exam optometrist backlash 2015 opternative 004
The nation’s leading optometry association is ready to wage war against online vision exams, with its initial target being Chicago-based startup Opternative.

Opternative is the brainchild of eye doctor Dr. Steven Lee and entrepreneur Aaron Dallek. The goal is to provide consumers with an easy and convenient way to check their vision without the trip to the doctor. Patients take a 25-minute vision test via their smartphone or computer, which is then sent to a licensed ophthalmologist for review. The test costs $40, and prescriptions sent within 24 hours or less.

While it sounds like an easy way to get an eyeglass or contact lens prescription without having to see the eye doctor, there are concerns. The test itself is not covered by insurance, and groups like the American Optometric Association say its own review suggests that Opternative doesn’t use established practices to judge vision clarity. The AOA even goes as far as describing these types of services as the “corporate equivalent of snake oil salesmen.”

They fear patients using these online tests will get inaccurate prescriptions, or even worse not catch conditions that require more than just a vision test to detect. AOA officials argue further that Opternative’s service is illegal because it has not been approved by the FDA, and petitioned the agency in April to have it banned until it is.

“There are simply too many questions about the accuracy of this so-called eye exam,” AOA president Dr. Steve Loomis said in a statement. “That’s why the AOA is alerting the public and urging federal and state officials to enforce their statutory and regulatory duties of patient safety and consumer protection safeguards.”

While Opternative has successfully opened up its service to patients in 32 states, the AOA has been successful in having it banned in five more. That hasn’t stopped about 55,000 from taking the test though, which is actually free (going forward and requesting a prescription is when the $40 is charged). While Opternative declined to offer actual sales numbers, it does say its satisfaction rate is 99 percent.

In a statement to DigitalTrends, Dallek said the AOA’s claims are without merit. He said the company’s official recommendation — which appears multiple times throughout the exam — is that Opternative’s test is not a replacement for an in-person eye exam, which the company recommends every two years. Furthermore, customers are banned from requesting more than four consecutive prescriptions without first showing proof they have had an comprehensive in-person exam during that period.

Opternative, through our regulatory counsel at a national law firm, has been in contact with the FDA before launching our medical service regarding the medical device our doctors use, and Opternative is operating in compliance with the guidance provided,” he told us in a Friday interview.

Dallek also noted that if the company’s ophthalmologists notice inconsistencies in the exam, they will request the patient retake the exam and failing that will refer the patient to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Dissatisfied customers will be eligible for a refund, the company says.

Despite Opternative’s position, it is unclear how the FDA will rule. It has not publicly commented on the merits of the AOA’s complaint. That said, we can expect eye doctors to continue to fight the rise in online vision exam services.

“In this era of rapid health care change, our AOA and state associations are on the leading edge of the fight for very basic patient health and safety standards, and a future in which health care efficiency is based on gains in quality and improved patient outcomes,” Loomis says.

Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.

Our 10 favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.

Aussies hope free Wi-Fi on their beaches will lead to fewer drownings

Lifeguards in Australia have hit on an idea to use Wi-Fi to make the nation's beaches safer. It's a simple but clever idea that plays on our need to stay connected around the clock.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Smart Home

Amazon will bring a 7-foot-tall Christmas tree to your doorstep starting today

If you have fond memories of going out with your family and searching for the perfect Christmas tree, well, Amazon wants to create its own holiday tradition. Starting today, you can order a real, 7-foot tree from Amazon.

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.

Google replaces its classic Search page with Discover on mobile devices

As part of its 20th anniversary, Google unveiled its plans to improve Search, starting with its Google Feed. Now known as Discover, the update brings along a redesign to help you find content that aligns with your interests.

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.

It's not all free money. Here's what to know before you try to mine Bitcoin

Mining Bitcoin today is harder than it used to be, but if you have enough time, money and cheap electricity, you can still turn a profit. Here's how to get started mining Bitcoin at home and in the cloud.