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    How ODs fit into the future of online refraction

    New York City—Executives from online refraction companies discussed their services during Vision Expo East. Opternative CEO Aaron Dallek; EyeNetra CTO Vitor Pamplona, PhD; and myVisionPOD Founder Hal Wilson shared information about their companies and answered questions from the audience about the future of online refraction.

    Opternative offers an online refraction test that provides a glasses or contact lens prescription within 24 hours (for more information on Opternative, click HERE). EyeNetra has a series of portable, smartphone-based refractive tools and also offers an in-home, on-demand refractive service called Blink (for more information on EyeNetra and Blink, click HERE). MyVisionPOD is a refraction test performed at a kiosk using the same equipment used in an eyecare office and a remote technician who helps guide the test. A doctor remotely reviews the refraction data in order to write the prescription.

    Related: Eyecare community raises red flags over Opternative

    Each company has faced a variety of backlash from the optometric community. Organized optometry has succeeded in banning online refraction in multiple states. Most recently, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that would ban companies like Opternative, and the bill is waiting for Governor Nathan Deal’s signature.

    Dallek, Dr. Pamplona, and Wilson explained the future of online refraction and how optometrists can fit into that future.

    Related: Blink in-home vision test worries ODs

    Why online refraction?

    Why did these companies decide to get into providing refraction services without the direct involvement of a doctor?

    Dallek, Dr. Pamplona, and Wilson all agreed that there is an eyecare accessibility problem both in the United States and abroad, and each said they believe online or remote refraction could help address that concern for billions of people.

    “If you consider anyone 20/25 or worse, we have about 2.4 billion people who need some correction,” Dr. Pamplona says. “So we asked, ‘How can we reach these people and get them back into the system?’ And it turns out there are about 6 billion cell phones out there, so people already have them and know how to use them.”

    Dallek says that services like Opternative help get those people who aren’t getting regular eye care involved back in the eyecare space.

    “The key is accessibility and affordability,” says Dallek. “There are 110 million exams done in the U.S. every year and 210 to 220 million people in the U.S. who need some sort of vision correction. Until we are getting 200 million people getting an eye exam every year, we should be focusing on making it as convenient as possible to get an eye exam.

    “That’s what our industry should be focused on,” he says. “You make more money on selling glasses and contact lenses than you do on an eye exam, for the most part.”

    Dr. Pamplona says there is both a market that needs this kind of technology and a market that wants this kind of technology.

    “For us, the biggest need is in the developing countries that are underserved, and we want to make sure that they are receiving care,” he says. “But the biggest demand is in the U.S. and Europe. In the U.S., you have a fairly large amount of people who don’t want to go into the practice any more—they want something different, a new experience.”

    For myVisionPOD, providing a more convenient way to receive a prescription means making it easier for patients to purchase glasses, which the company also sells online.

    “We’re in the online eyeglass business, and the biggest obstacle for our patients is not having a current refraction,” says Wilson. “From our perspective, the refraction is the obstacle—not the endgame—for the patient. So we wanted to remove that obstacle and provide unparalleled access, convenience, and price.”

    Next: Where can ODs fit in with online refraction?

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...

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