Optometrists Aim To Limit Online Eye Exams

Some optometrists are pushing back against new technology that allows consumers to get prescriptions for contact lenses and glasses with the click of a keyboard and a smartphone.

While proponents of these limited online eye exams argue they provide both financial savings and convenience, medical professionals contend patients could be put at risk. Without a full, face-to-face exam from a doctor, they argue potential medical problems could be overlooked.

"Our concern is making sure that people get the health of their eyes checked," said Connecticut state Rep. Kevin Ryan, who has a doctor of optometry degree. He has proposed legislation this session that would require in-person eye examinations conducted by an optometrist or a physician who specializes in ophthalmology for contact lens prescriptions.

More than a dozen states have decided to regulate online exams in recent years, according to the American Optometric Association. In Virginia, for example, online eye exam providers must meet certain consumer protection standards, while South Carolina last year barred consumers from getting a prescription for glasses or contact lenses from an online exam.

Ryan said an optometrist will make sure a patient's contact lenses, which he referred to as "a medical device on the eye," are a good fit. Ryan said lenses can cause damage to the eye if they're not properly fitted. Also, he said professional fittings typically include checking the pressure in the eye and basic eye health to make sure no adverse conditions have developed. In contrast, Ryan said the online tests are "unproven and untested" and there have been examples of patients receiving the wrong prescription.

"I'm going to say for like 95 percent of the people ... they can get away with this," he said, referring to the online exams, which typically include a refraction test that measures a person's prescription for glasses or contacts. "But...

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