A Look at Online Eye Exams

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We’re all looking for ways to save time. So, it’s no wonder that online eye exams have become popular. The ability to get a new prescription for glasses or contacts using just your computer and a smartphone sounds pretty appealing.

Online eye exam
However, are online eye exams all they are cracked up to be? We took a deeper look at the online eye exam process and compared it to an in-office exam. Here’s what we learned:

  1. Online/home eye exams only focus on one part of a traditional in-office eye exam: the refraction. This is the typical “eye chart” test you’ve probably been doing since you were in elementary school. This determines the lens power you need to make up for farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism. As part of the home eye exam process, you’ll create a mock test environment using your computer and smartphone.
  2. You’ll be asked to provide your existing prescription. The results of your home eye exam are reviewed alongside this prescription to determine if an adjustment is necessary. A caveat: If you haven’t seen an eye doctor within the past two years, you’ll be advised to make an in-office appointment.
  3. To get the results of your home exam, patients must acknowledge that an online eye exam is not the same as a comprehensive in-office examination (see #1 above).
  4. Approximately 24 hours after you conduct your exam at home and provide your current prescription, you’ll receive an updated prescription, which you can fill on your own.

What does an in-office eye exam offer with a VSP network eye doctor?

Comprehensive eye exams like VSP’s WellVision Exam include an evaluation of the patient’s eye health and function, including how well the eyes focus and work together. Comprehensive eye exams also allow eye doctors to detect conditions that can cause vision loss such as cataracts, glaucoma, computer vision syndrome, macular degeneration and eye strain. By taking an up-close-and-personal look at the blood vessels in and around the eyes, eye doctors can also detect health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

What do the experts say about online eye exams?

The American Optometric Association says, “The refraction performed by online eye tests is only one of many tests performed during an eye examination, and taken by itself, does not provide sufficient information regarding the treatment of a patient, including the prescription of glasses or contact lenses.” Eye doctors tend to agree. VSP board member and network eye doctor, Mary Anne Murphy, OD, says online exams aren’t a substitute for in-office examinations. “Maybe at some point when the technology is up to snuff, it could be used to augment what happens in a traditional office,” she says. “But now I think it’s incomplete.”

The bottom line: Although making eye exams more accessible is a great idea, the technology isn’t ready or able to replace an in-person visit with your eye doctor. If you need to make an appointment to see an eye doctor, but don’t have vision benefits, visit VSPDirect.com to learn how VSP Individual Vision Plans can help you save money on your next eye exam and glasses.

This post was written by VSP employee Stephanie R.

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