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    The underlying concern of online refractions

    Are they cause for concern or just business as usual?

    There is no question that our profession is undergoing rapid change as well as significant challenges. As a profession, we are faced with the dual responsibility of protecting our patient and maintaining our proficiency. Both of these also fall under the legal jurisdiction of the State Board of Optometry in the states in which we are licensed. Some state boards have already acted, but most have not. One that has not is California.

    For over two years, optometry has faced distinctive challenges that have been overlooked or pushed aside by those very same state boards. The California State Board has thus far neglected to act on the topic of online refraction, in spite of being made aware of the potential harm and receiving both written and oral testimony about it.

    One wonders if the CA State Board is afraid to act, believes it has no jurisdiction to act, feels there is no violation of the optometry rules and regulations, is just ignorant, feels that because no consumer has been directly harmed it cannot act, or outright thinks that there is no instance of the consumer being misled or harmed.

    Related: Eyecare community raises red flags over Opternative

    Multiple apps and websites are available or being developed to conduct refractions. There is no direct or actual supervision by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. At least one site (Opternative) posts a disclaimer, yet still uses the term “eye exam” when describing its product.

    Opternative cofounder Aaron Dallek described the service as a “convenient and very affordable way” for getting a prescription ($40 for a refraction/$60 for a contact lens Rx; taking less than 25 minutes), costing less than a “traditional refractive eye exam.” Cofounder Steven Lee, OD, who is not licensed in CA, said it was “statistically equivalent” to the traditional eye exam. The website goes on to say that the “Opternative eye exam was as accurate as a traditional refractive exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist using a phoropter.”

    The California Brokers listed as a new product in its Insurance Insider newsletter (July 29, 2015) a paragraph promoting Opternative under the heading “Covered California Releases Rates for 2016.” The result is that California’s Life and Health Professionals is now promoting a product that is misleading to the public, to professionals in the insurance arena, and is not compliant with CA state law.

    Next: Industry taking action

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    • AllanGunn
      I totally disagree with this article. A couple of things; “we are … protecting our patient”…really? From what? Peoples eyes belong to them. Not the optical industry. I agree that some or most will “miss some important benefits” of a full eye exam, but some may just want a confirmation of a script, a new script that goes in-between “official” visits. I also believe that those that may think they had an “exam” are quite naive. The optical profession is merely trying to protect their industry by throwing a legal threat, attempting to halt or stall technological progression. There are still many opticians that do not use the auto-refractometer as if it’s some “modern-day-evil”. Progress is unavoidable and should be embraced. Otherwise I feel that those opposing will be left on the wayside sooner or later. Peoples needs and wants have changed…so should the optical field.

    Optometry Times A/V