When you have a medical question, where do you turn to? Google of course! Not only are we capable of diagnosing minor illnesses using online symptom checkers, but we can also connect with real doctors and therapists through a computer screen. Now, online eye exams are available and they are cheaper and easier than in-office visits. However, experts say that people still need to go to the doctor for a more comprehensive test.
Opternative is a new company that offers online eye exams for $40. The service is available in 39 states, and the company claims the screening is just as effective as an in-person visit. However, the company states on its website that the vision screening is NOT a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam. Rather, the tests are used to prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
Let’s look at what an online eye exam entails and whether these tests are effective.
What Happens During an Online Vision Screening?
The first step is to set up an account with Opternative, which you can do using a smartphone or computer and internet service. Patients look at the screen and read various displays of letters, numbers and shapes. These displays are based on traditional eye charts.
The screening is interactive. Patients indicate what they can and can’t see by responding on their device. Some parts of the test require you to stand up to 10 feet away! When the test is complete – usually 10-25 minutes – the $40 fee is paid (or $60 for both a glasses and contact lens prescription), and the results are sent to a licensed eye doctor.
The doctor reviews the results and looks for signs of astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness. Additional factors reviewed by the doctor are medical history, pre-existing conditions and prior prescription.
Online vs In-Person Eye Exam: What is Better?
Seeing an eye doctor in-person is the best option – even Opternative agrees. A comprehensive eye exam includes a tonometry test that measures eye pressure and looks for glaucoma. Additionally, a complete eye exam includes a review of your health history, a measurement of eye function and tests for external and internal eye health. Peripheral vision tests and dilation are sometimes recommended as well.
In the end, an online eye exam is only sufficient in between eye doctor visits when needing a new, updated prescription. Ophthalmologists recommend that people get an eye exam every 2 years. Also, not everyone is eligible for an online vision screening. If you are over the age of 50 or have a condition that impacts your eye health – diabetes, high blood pressure – this test is not for you.