The online vision screening site Visibly, (formerly Opternative) was removed from service in August 2019. Since 2016, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has been lobbying the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the site’s online vision test did not have a premarket review from agency, nor did it receive approval for safety or efficacy.
The company started as Opternative in 2015 as a way for people to get new glasses or contact lenses prescription via an online screening test. If a person went beyond a certain threshold, he or she was referred to an eye doctor. Despite this safeguard, many were concerned that this would mislead the public since the online line test wasn’t a bona fide ocular health exam. So, there was push back against the service. In April 2016, the AOA filed a complaint again Opternative and in May 2016 lawmakers in South Carolina overrode a veto to ban online exam technology.
While this is a victory for both medical community and the public, the idea of online vision exams hasn’t gone away. Someone else is going to come along offer online vision tests that will meet FDA regulations but won’t be what an eye doctor offers.
What’s wrong with a little technology? You ask. Doesn’t it ultimately help people? Yes, advances in medical technology, such as laser surgery for cataracts and telemedicine, have helped millions. The thing is, there comes a time when there needs to be a doctor in the room delivering the healthcare. This is especially true with eye care since humans orient themselves with the world around them using their eyes. Numbers without someone with medical school training to interpret them, are just that—numbers.
This is where a little education comes in. People need to know that online refraction services aren’t good idea for the following reasons:
They aren’t a replacement for eye exam from an optometrists or ophthalmologist—Hello, all those years in medical school, not to mention a residency or fellowship and more years in practice mean that you know a thing or two about eyes and eye health.
They don’t accept insurance—While more people should have access to healthcare, whatever health insurance your practice accepts is a big help to those who go to you for eye exams.
They aren’t one stop shopping—Most practices offer frames and contacts along with eye exams. By using a service like Opternative/Visibly, people have to go elsewhere to get their frames or contacts.
That’s why eye doctors have to be vigilant when it comes to companies such as Opternative/Visibly. Healthcare can’t be delivered like an item from Amazon.com. Eye care needs to be delivered person to person.