3 Things You Can Do to Combat Online Eye Exams

Nov 19, 2014
2 min read

Online eye exams are dramatically disrupting the industry—here's what you can do to combat them.


Online eye exam technology has the potential of disrupting the industry and negatively impacting our profession. With strong consumer support, our efforts to block this technology might be viewed merely as protecting our own interests. If optometry does not lead and own this conversation, we seriously risk losing credibility and authority on this issue.

After an online eye exam, an eye health exam would be recommended with a local optometrist or ophthalmologist. However, this would not be required or enforced, with the digitally signed Rx already given.

Barry Santini predicts, "...there’s little doubt that the consumer will have the final say in this story. Because it’s not about shortcuts or convenience, or saving/making money; it’s about trust. Patients who try and are unhappy with online refraction,” says Santini, “will be back.”

Let's hope so.

At least for now, no one under the age of 18 or over the age of 40, or with pre-existing medical conditions, is allowed to take the online eye exam. Yet we all know that serious eye diseases and medical conditions can be first diagnosed in this age group. For this reason, The Optometric Society's public service campaign focuses on this age category and on patient education. Let's send a strong message: an eye exam is well worth the commute, the wait, the time, and the money!

We should stress the following in our conversations with the public

  1. An online eye exam is not an "eye health exam." An eye health exam checks for eye and medical conditions, which often don't have symptoms. 
  2. Early intervention and treatment of these diseases saves time and money later.
  3. For a contact lens prescription, an in-person exam by a doctor is required to make sure contact lens wear is safe for you.
  4. An online eye exam does not verify whether your eye health is being compromised by contact lens wear.   This puts you at risk for conditions that permanently impair your vision and eye health.

3 things ODs and their practices can do to make patients aware of online eye exams

  1. Make sure your staff communicates the difference between a refraction and a comprehensive eye exam, with every patient. In the waiting room, have written patient cases and testimonials of how ocular and medical conditions were found during a routine exam.
  2. Write an op-ed to your local newspaper, detailing the importance of full-scope optometric care. Feel free to use mine as a template.
  3. Alert your state medical board, state optometry board, and your state AOA chapter. Get involved!