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—Online Refractions: Trend or Threat?

It’s debatable whether online refractions are an industry trend””the respondents to our recent survey think not (65% vs. 35%), yet when it comes to the question of whether they are an industry threat, ECPS are closely divided (52% think they are, while 48% think not). Where there is the most agreement is with what ECPs perceives the patient thinks: Three-quarters of those surveyed believe the general population doesn’t yet trust the technology while a quarter thinks they do. The terms “marketing gimmick,” “ridiculous,” and “health hazard” were mentioned by more than a few respondents. When asked “What is your opinion on the topic?,” your colleagues made the following comments:

“The accuracy of online refractions is suspect as is the accuracy of glasses ordered online with any prescription. Some people will do anything to cut costs but I think it’s a terrible idea.”

“There is more to refraction than just numbers. It’s about meeting the visual needs of the world the patient lives in. There will always be cheaper ways to achieve a goal but if I (as the doctor) can convey that I understand the patient’s goal, then my practice will flourish.”

“May be helpful in rural areas where access is a concern.”

“I think they’ll probably capture some market share, but nothing major.”

“I think it’s deceptive. Patients see the refraction as the main reason for going to the eye doctor and may miss real health news about their eyes.”

“Online refractions do a disservice to the patient. They will put patients in danger of vision loss from undiagnosed diseases.”

“For the consumer who believes an eye exam is a pair of glases or contact lenses, online refractions will be acceptable.”

“It may work for a select few but in spite of the advances in technology, there is no smartphone app that can approach the accuracy of a $40,000 autorefractor.”

“After almost 30 years, I still have to put a lot of judgment into the final Rx. This is something that comes with practice and wisdom.”

“I’m not sure the technology is really up to speed at this time.”

“It’s like an online baby delivery. Something is missing””the doctor!”

“Pluses and minuses. Plus: It may make some aware that there is a problem with their vision and eyes so they may make an appointment with their ECP. Minus: It may give a false sense of security.”

“I think they are a useful way to get a good enough prescription for someone too busy for an exam.”

“It’s a marketing gimmick.”

“Online refractions are just beginning but we are already dealing with online opticals. I doubt that this online refraction will be a threat to our practices any more than online ordering of spectacles and contact lenses.”

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