Online eye exams advertise themselves as an easy, affordable, and efficient way to receive a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses without having to leave the comfort of your own home. The companies that offer these services may seem like they are offering a comprehensive service, but an online vision test does not take the place of an annual eye exam. If you are thinking about using an online vision service to update your prescription, here is what to consider before skipping your yearly trip to the eye doctor.
There are plenty of services that advertise “online eye exams,” but in reality these websites offer little more than a vision screening. The algorithm utilized by these companies determines a glasses or contact lens prescription based on responses you give using a computer screen and a smart phone. They require the user to calibrate the test distance and screen size to improve accuracy, then instruct customers to stand at a specific distance and use their smart phone to answer questions about what they can and cannot see. From these responses, a prescription is formulated and a doctor signs off on the prescription, without ever seeing your eyes.
This limited vision evaluation covers only a small portion of what is provided during a comprehensive annual eye examination. There is no ocular health evaluation that looks for silent eye diseases like glaucoma, or identifies signs of diabetic eye disease. There are no tests to determine if the eyes are properly aligned, are working together efficiently as a team, or are balanced and able to provide appropriate depth perception. There is no doctor present to be able to explain the changes in your prescription and educate you on what you might experience after update your glasses or contacts. The only service these online vision tests can offer, is an assessment of your eyesight. Only an eye care provider can offer you and your eyes comprehensive eye care.
Because these tests require the user to calibrate the program, there is room for error that could contribute to inaccuracy. However, even taking this potential for human error into account, these online services claim that they are just as accurate as an in-person vision evaluation. While they may have perfected their vision algorithm, the online services do not provide the opportunity for the user to ask questions or voice concerns. After a prescription is determined, the service is complete, whether or not the prescription that is finalized is the most accurate possible prescription.
If the prescription received from these online services is inaccurate or causes problems with adaptation or eye strain, it can be difficult for customers to have the prescription re-checked. Oftentimes, users are forced to pay out of pocket for another prescription. Not to mention, these online services do not accept insurance, so your vision benefits may go to waste. While they may seem like an affordable option, online vision tests are asking you to pay a significant fee for services that are only a small portion of a comprehensive eye exam.