Here, There, Anywhere?

Remote refracting is gathering momentum—here’s the lowdown on the latest developments you need to know

Anton Khrupin /

like it or not, online tests and remote Rx shortcuts are here to stay. In big-picture terms, they’re part of today’s digital technology transformation in the medical arena.

They’re also the biggest disrupter in the optical industry. Add to that the fact that many consumers don’t see the difference between them and comprehensive in-person exams, and you have your work cut out for you.

In fact, according to recent Transitions Optical research, 40% of U.S. employees surveyed as part of the Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits study said they see no difference between online tests and in-office exams.

Additionally, 60% said they’d get their eyes “examined” more often if online tests were covered.

Another key consideration in this new optical landscape—as reported in The Vision Council’s Q4 ’17 Optical Market Eyewear Overview, online optical sales were up 5.1% in dollars from year-end 2016 to year-end 2017.

Big Waves

The online refraction category, and especially Opternative, has been making major waves. In addition to its own site, Opternative has launched EZRx, an ECP provider platform, and announced partnerships with several online retailers—including Lensabl, liingo eyewear, 1-800-Contacts, LensDirect, , and —to offer access to its online prescription renewal technologies.

In the process, Opternative has caught the eye—and the ire—of the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). As the AOA reports, “Opternative has marketed its app-based vision test without clearance or approval required by the government, in violation of both federal law and the FDA warning in an enforcement action that confirmed the AOA’s original safety complaint.”

The Key Players

The drama continues as major players in the online refraction category continue to position optometry as anti-technology. To help you know what you’re up against, here’s a look at the major players in this fast-changing category.

Consumer-Facing Tech

On-Location Systems

  • Smart Vision Labs charges a fee per telemedicine assessment, and features a “five-minute vision exam.”
  • 20/20 NOW provides eye exams, including screenings, via telemedicine.
  • Digital Optometrics is a telemedicine platform for use in an optical setting.

Portable Systems

  • Though not necessarily telemedicine, EyeNetra’s portable tech suite (autorefractor, phoropter, and lensometer) lets ECPs go mobile for clinics and screenings.

Looking ahead, you’ll see new tests popping in (and out) of favor. Be ready to explain the difference between these services and comprehensive eye exams.

—Stephanie K. De Long