weather alert

5 Weather Alerts

Caption

Healthy You

A closer look at online eye exams, questions of legality

stanislave

Glasses on eye chart

Glasses on eye chart less

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Kayla Fortney is an online multi-media producer: "It definitely feels like my eyes are strained."

She's noticed that strain was causing her vision to become blurry, saying, "I've been here almost a year and I definitely should have an eye exam by now." But like most of us, it's always about finding the time.

Enter the internet eye exam.

Opternative claims to diagnose your vision and give you an accurate prescription if needed.

After following the procedure to link your phone to your computer the test begins.

With shoes off as instructed, Fortney walks the precise number of steps to begin the test. She's prompted to cover one eye at a time and follow instructions.

The online exam took about 25 minutes and Fortney gets a preliminary diagnosis of being nearsighted. The Opternative website says her prescription will be emailed within 24 hours after it's reviewed by an optometrist.

But Fortney is skeptical about the tests accuracy: "It will be interesting to see what my official results are."

Dr. Phil Vanderlugt at Grand Rapids Ophthalmology agreed to give Fortney an in office eye exam and compare results.

He has concerns about patients getting online prescriptions: "Part of the determination of an eyeglass prescription also involves how the eyes work together what we call binocular vision and there is really no way for these online tests to determine how the eyes work together."

Fortney's visit to the eye doctor takes about the same amount of time as her online exam but yields vastly different results.

“We determined that she was a little bit farsighted and had a little bit of a stigmatism, and I believe her online analysis suggested she might have been a little nearsighted the opposite of what our outcome was," Vanderlugt said.

And Vanderlugt doesn't think Fortney needs glasses.

Which once again is different from the online exam which 24 hours later sent Fortney a prescription for nearsightedness. We showed the prescription to Vanderlugt.

"Maybe this prescription was generated consistent with the fact that she had some distance complaint but were actually rooted more in her near issues so it's unfortunately this is how it came out," he said.

Had Fortney filled her online prescription, it may have done her more harm than good -- the doctor said the eyes have to work harder.

And there's another concern Vanderlugt has about internet eye exams: underlying medical concerns, including glaucoma, diabetes and other issues that may affect eyesight.

“Us as eye care professionals believe that a comprehensive eye care examination has far more components to it than what an online refraction analysis does," Vanderlugt said.

Which is why in March the state of Michigan issued a cease and desist order against Opternative for violating the Eye Care Consumer and Protection Law stating the Opternative "prescription" does not constitute a valid prescription under Michigan law.

Despite selecting Michigan as her home state, Fortney had no problem taking the test or obtaining a prescription,

"It makes you uneasy that someone could make a recommendation for someone that's not consistent with their needs," Vanderlugt said.

The internet exam by Opternative costs $40, in office visit to the eye doctor about $100 and if you carry vision insurance an in office eye exam is a $20 co-pay.

The online exam does not honor insurance coverage.

Opternative does offer a 1-800 customer service number if you had problems with your prescription. But again, these online eye exam websites have been issued a cease and desist order from the state of Michigan so even if you do get a prescription, eye glass stores should not be filling it.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment