Is Opternative a Healthy Alternative to Eye Exams?

We have drive-through windows to get our Starbucks coffee. Mail-order prescriptions save us a trip to the pharmacy. Now, even grocery stores offer door-to-door delivery. It should not come as a surprise that eye exams can now be done online. Yes, you read correctly; modern technology allows you to skip your visit to your ophthalmologist, take a free eye exam online, pay a fee for a prescription for contacts or glasses, and buy your corrective lenses at a location of your choice.

Can you really get a reliable eye prescription with just a computer and a smartphone? Opternative, a Chicago-based company that offers free eye exams on its website, is hoping to revolutionize how 114 million adults get eye exams. The process is quite simple. First, you answer a few screening questions about your age and health. If you pass, you will be instructed to take the 25-minute eye exam using your computer and your smartphone. Almost 40,000 people in 32 out of 50 states have used Opternative, according to CEO and co-founder Aaron Dallek, and the numbers keep growing.

Although Opternative does not sell contacts or glasses directly, they promise a 24-hour turnaround time for prescriptions and charge only $40 for an eyeglass or contact prescription or $60 for both. Prescriptions are written by eye doctors with medical degrees, and the total cost of using Opternative is very close to the average of $52 that most people pay for a traditional eye exam.

There is no argument that Opternative offers convenience, affordability and quick results. However, this method of examining vision falls short on every level compared to a comprehensive eye exam. Let’s consider some of the downsides of using an online company to administer your eye examination and prescribe corrective lenses:

  1. An online test provides insufficient data to evaluate contact prescriptions. For a correct fitting for contacts, specific eye measurements need to be taken.
  2. The vision test from Opternative cannot be called a medical exam. A patient cannot be assessed for eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration.
  3. There is no personal interaction with an eye care specialist. Issues like blurred vision or eye infection cannot be treated.
  4. The exam is not FDA approved. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association also see Opternative’s exams as inadequate to meet the needs of most individuals, especially those over the age of 40.

Nothing can substitute a thorough eye exam by a licensed eye care specialist. Most comprehensive eye exams will include the following tests:

  • Visual acuity test
  • Visual field test
  • Cover test
  • Retinoscopy, autorefractor or aberrometer
  • Refraction
  • Slit lamp exam
  • Glaucoma test
  • Dilation of pupil to examine retina and optic nerve

Your vision is worth the investment of a one-hour exam. If you need assistance finding a qualified ophthalmologist, use our Physician Locator Tool to find a specialist near you. Good eye heath deserves more than an online test, so build a relationship with a doctor you can trust with the changing needs of your eyes (Source: USA Today).


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