Updated: Nov 30, 2020
I love technology. I'm also a sucker for new vision equipment that helps me diagnose and treat eye problems, or that helps me explain something to my patients more effectively. I love all the different ways we can communicate across the world and I love that I can have the most powerful encyclopedia that history has ever known in my smart phone. Alexa, Siri etc. are getting smarter all the time, video and photos are getting better each year and it goes on and on. I can even pay someone without a bank in Timbuktu using bitcoin if I want to. Amazing stuff.
There's been some new technology created in eye care lately, that some eye doctors that they'll soon be obsolete.
What is it?
An Online Eye Exam. Or a "sight test", or "vision exam"
An online eye exam offers it's customers a fast, cheap alternative to going to the eye doctor or optometrist and having to go through an actual eye exam.
What it's designed to do is to help you get a prescription updated for your contacts or glasses in the privacy of your own home. You don't even need to go to an optical shop or eyeglasses store and pick them out/try them on either.
Of course this has a lot of eye doctors worried. What if everyone just starts doing this instead of going to them for their prescriptions? Can eye doctors fight this? Yes. In fact they (we) are. But my thought is that it's unrealistic to fight it. It's already here. It can be made illegal, but it's not going to be enforced.
Could you imagine winding up in jail? The guy next to you asks... "so what are you in for???"
"I had my eyes checked online."
So, I think it's unrealistic for us Optometrists to try and stop these online tests. The train has already left the station.
So the best thing I can do at this point is to just take a very quick second to just educate you. These online eye tests are not eye exams. They are simply one part of what would be a comprehensive eye exam. One small part actually. But it happens to be the part of the exam that helps to generate a prescription. I think most of these sites have you check a box which informs you of this but it is probably one of those very fine print sections that you aren't going to read.
Just be warned not to feel a false sense of security that you just your "eye exam" if you did one of those free sight tests, because there's a lot more to go into an eye exam than just pumping out prescriptions.
As an optometrist, I recommend going to an actual eye doctor (an optometrist or an ophthalmogist) to get a comprehensive eye exam once a year starting at 6-12 months of age.