f you haven’t heard of Opternative, you've been living under a rock! Founded by an optometrist Dr. Steven Lee and entrepreneur Aaron Dallek, Opternative.com is looking to launch the first online "refractive eye exam" this summer. In fact, when you Google Opternative, you'll find that many articles refer to them as the first online eye exam - dropping the word "refractive".
This past winter, Opternative.com received 1 million dollars in funding. To bypass the authority of regulatory optometry boards, Opternative.com is recruiting ophthalmologists to sign off on their online generated prescriptions. Meanwhile, the AOA is monitoring them very closely. Either way, the inception of this disturbingly risky concept peaked my attention to further investigate the start up.
Here Are 8 Things You Should Learn From Opternative.com
1) To the Public, Eye Exam = Refraction
Ask your non-OD friends what they think you do - they'll prove my point. The vast majority of patients in your chair are there to update their contact lens and glasses prescription. Their visit is your opportunity to let them in on a little secret – the exam YOU provide is so much more than a refraction!
2) Patient Education is Essential
Plain and simple, comprehensive eye exams help save lives. If you don't educate your patients on the preventative nature of their exam, you're not doing your job! The Think About Your Eyes campaign is a step in the right direction, however, ODs need to follow suit for public perception to change.
3) Support Organized Optometry or Else...
Your future is in jeopardy. The AOA and their state affiliates consistently put out legislative fires that could destroy Optometry. Get involved, pay your dues and support optometric PACs – it’s the cost of doing business. Everyone on the NewGradOptometry.com team is an AOA member. Success tends to follow those who are members!
4) Safety >>> Convenience
Although this may seem like a convenient option to the consumer, it's putting their health at risk! The disclaimer at the bottom of the Opternative.com website states their technology is only intended and suitable for use by licensed eye care professionals to perform online "refractive eye exams" on patients between the ages of 18-40 and in "good health" (e.g. patients must not have a history of diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, brain injuries, neurological issues; or symptoms of acute eye pain, or flashes and floaters in their eyes, etc.).
What?! Allowing the general public to determine if they are in "good health" is like playing with fire! Last I checked, comprehensive eye exams are often what provide early detection of debilitating medical and visual conditions - I'm pretty sure medical malpractice attorneys would agree...
5) You Are Smarter Than A Machine
Technological advances continue to shape the future of clinical decision making - but not all data is created equal. For example, not every field defect is indicative of a patient losing their peripheral vision.
Was it their first visual field? Did they have fixation losses? False positives? False Negatives? The wrong trial lens? ;)
My point being, while medical devices have obviously improved the quality of patient care, YOU are ultimately responsible for the health of your patient!
6) Technological Innovations Are Inevitable
Truth be told, I’m NOT surprised Opternative.com is trying to move the refraction online. Ever heard of EyeNetra or PeekVision? Opternative.com is just one of the many companies trying to marginalize eye care to make a quick buck. If these companies were truly invested in patient care, they would focus their efforts on developing new technologies that could improve accuracy and efficiency in the exam room - NOT online.
7) Practice Diversification is the Future
Historically, the refraction has been the lifeblood of optometry. Although it shall never be forgotten, the future resides in full spectrum eye care through sub-specialty clinics. Manage ocular diseases, fit specialty contact lenses. provide vision therapy or low vision. All these services are in need and can help offset any financial losses that occur due to the ever changing retail marketplace.
8) The Sky is NOT Falling
No, seriously. Just look outside. :)
Every time optometry is challenged, we persevere! Our presence in Washington is stronger than ever. Social media has fostered new platforms for ODs to connect. If optometry can stay united, our future is brighter than ever.
Personally, I became an optometrist to help people see and improve their quality of life as part of the medical model. By moving the refraction online, Opternative.com will have a detrimental effect on the health of our patients. Even as a forward thinker, I feel they're crossing an ethical boundary. Until Opternative.com can demonstrate how their technology will improve the quality of eye care without sacrificing health, I will not support them.
If you'd like to hear from the founders themselves, listen to their interview with Dr. Gary Gerber on the Power Hour.