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The Role of Technology in Expanding Vision Tests

Posted by Laura McMullen on Wed, Aug 10, 2016

This summer, my daughter found out she will need glasses soon, my cousin’s daughter got glasses, and my mom had cataract surgery – I’ve worn glasses since I was a kid so eye exams and buying glasses and contact lenses is always a topic in our house.  

eye_exam.jpgTechnology has made a big impact on vision care. The latest trend is apps to test your vision. When I looked at the iTunes store, I found 10 apps in a search for “eye exam medical” and in Google Play, I found more than 50. They have names like Eye Exam – Eye Test, Eye Test, and Eye Exam. Some of them were created by eye care professionals and others by tech experts. These apps use mobile devices to check for visual acuity, color blindness, astigmatism, and macular degeneration. When you look at the reviews, people rave about the convenience and low price. The results aren’t a prescription that you can use to get eyeglasses or contact lenses. 

Another trend is websites that let you refract your own eyes and send the results to an eye doctor to be certified. Once the results are certified, you can use them to get eyeglasses or contact lenses. Opternative and EyeXam are two of the biggest sites. Opternative markets directly to patients and encourages them to use their prescriptions at any retail location. The results are signed by a board-certified ophthalmologist licensed in the patient’s state. EyeXam markets to eye care providers as a way to attract new patients and to patients as a way to connect with an eye care provider. 

The American Optometric Association is concerned that apps and websites like these are operating without proper medical supervision and recently sent a formal complaint to the FDA. A recent article in Employee Benefit News summarized the AOA’s position: 

  • Self-serve apps and websites can give “inaccurate or misleading information and may miss deeper health issues.” 
  • These apps and websites confuse refraction test and exams. According to, a refraction test checks to see that light is bending properly when it passes through the cornea and retina of the eye. The results of this test tell the eye care provider what correction is required to make your vision 20/20. Self-serve apps offer refraction not exams. 
  • More comprehensive adult eye exams should be available to all consumers similar to the pediatric vision benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. 

SHRM estimates that 87% of employers offer vision benefits to their employees and eye exams and refraction tests are the services that people with vision benefits use most frequently. More complicated conditions such as low vision caused by diabetes are usually covered by medical plans.  

More vision tests would seem to mean more people looking for glasses and contact lenses. How do you think these trends will impact your network? 

Tags: health insurance, Affordable Care Act, Vision, Vision insurance, employee benefits




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