At-home eye exams catch flak from doctor despite saving patients' time

At-home eye exams catch flak from doctor despite saving patients' time

(NPN) - Do-it-yourself eye exams, which allow patients to obtain a prescription from home using a smartphone and computer, are receiving the chagrin of professionals, but proving to be a popular alternative to tradition visits to a doctor.

Chukwuma Nwaomah, who has worn glasses since third grade, recently turned to an online exam after growing tired of yearly in-person appointments.

"I was a little hesitant at first," he said. "But, once I got the hang of it, I just breezed right through it."

After only a day of waiting after his self-administered exam, Nwaomah received a new prescription.

"It saved me some time as far as getting to the eye doctor," he said.

Nwaomah is not alone. Aaron Dallek, the CEO and co-founder of Opternative, said his company has seen "tens of thousands" sign up for at-home examinations.

"All you need is a computer and a smart phone," Dallek said. "It takes 20 to 25 minutes and you need 10 to 12 feet of space."

The CEO said the online eye exam is a vision test using letters and shapes in similar fashion to traditional exams taken in doctors' offices.

Test results are sent to Ophthalmologist in the user's state. After being evaluated, a prescription can be written.

"It's much more convenient and less expensive than going to the eye doctor," Dallek said.

Dr. Stephen Loomis, president of the American Optometric Association, has voiced concern about the trending practice.

"I just don't understand how looking at those numbers that come back from an automated system can really tell the doctor what he or she needs to know regarding what that patient's prescription ought to be," he said.

Loomis said he worries that patients will be misled into thinking they've had a complete exam, when in reality the vision portion is only a small part of what eye doctors investigate during an in-house exam.

Dallek, however, insisted that his company's system was never designed to replace traditional eye exams. Instead, he said it was designed to supplement them.

"We care very deeply about patients' eye health," Dallek said, "And we make it so patients cannot use the Opternative exam more than four years in a row."

Even though Nwaomah was pleased with the time-saving nature of the do-it-yourself exam, he said he was considering mixing traditional exams with online exams in the future.

Copyright 2015 NPN via Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.