News

Warby Parker Unveils Mobile Rx Service

In a move designed to bring not just eyewear but prescriptions to the masses via the Internet, online eyeglass purveyor Warby Parker has announced a mobile refraction service that allows customers to get a prescription renewal/update from their phone. Read on….
 
Announced on the Warby Parker website and on media sites like Inc.com and Tech Crunch, the Prescription Check is an app (available in iTunes) that guides the user through a series of vision tests. The app is currently designed for existing Warby Parker customers only, as it directs users to take the test while wearing their WP eyewear, and then determines if their existing prescription needs to be updated.
 
From the Warby Parker site: “An eye doctor will assess whether your vision has changed since your last prescription. If it hasn’t changed, the doctor will write you an updated prescription that you can use anywhere! If it has, the doctor may recommend that you get a comprehensive eye exam. You can expect to hear back from us within 24 hours either way.”
 
The move may be seen as the latest “cyber” blow to the optical industry, which has already seen increased competition for eyewear from online sellers—Warby Parker itself has expanded form online only to a growing number of physical locations—as well as a growing contingent of online eye tests, such as Opternative.
Opternative allows users to take an online “test” and get a prescription emailed to them. This fall, EB reported it expanded its cyber footprint when it partnered with the huge e-tailer 1-800-CONTACTS to offer online exams to contact lens customers on that site as well.
 
The American Optometric Association (AOA) has several times lobbied the FDA to take legal action against Opternative’s online service, and has taken the position that online vision tests cannot take the place of in-person, comprehensive eye exams to safeguard consumers’ vision and overall health.

Today, the AOA released a statement in response to the Warby Parker news. It reads, in part:
"When patients rely on an app for an eyeglass or contact lens prescription, they can receive inaccurate or misleading information and potentially delay essential sight saving treatment. An online eye test does not completely cover any one of the 12 components of a regular in-person, comprehensive eye exam. National agencies, including the National Eye Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agree that a comprehensive eye examination is the only way to know whether your eyes and vision are healthy. And last year, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issued a national call to action to make eye health a priority. Touting virtual technologies that are not proven and subvert care sets us all back....Innovators need to focus on delivering tools that help advance patient care, because 'virtual' care is no substitute for actual health care. The public should know that there’s less here than meets the eye. In fact, it would have been hard to predict that any company could offer less than the already discredited online sight apps, but that appears to be the case here."

According to a report on Tech Crunch, Warby Parker’s Prescription Check app has limited availability, at least initially. It reports its available to people between the ages of 18 and 40 in California, Florida, New York and Virginia who already have Warby Parker glasses are eligible for the test.
 
A note toward the bottom of the Prescription Check page on the Warby Parker website notes that “Prescription Check is not a comprehensive eye health exam and it isn’t meant to replace visits to your eye doctor.”
—Susan Tarrant