If you needed any evidence that the way eyecare is delivered to the public in the U.S. is on the brink of changing dramatically, you only have to look at the recent announcement by EyeNetra about its new Blink system. Touted as “mobile health care,” Blink is not a device, it’s a method for refracting remotely. On EyeNetra’s website, a person can book an appointment and a tech (called a “Visioneer”) will visit them at their home, office, or presumably just about anywhere reasonable.

Visioneers use a tablet, a smartphone, and EyeNetra’s refracting device to test the patient’s visual acuity. They also do a lifestyle assessment through questioning. If the patient is wearing eyeglasses, those are measured using an adaptor on a smartphone. The patient’s refraction and PD measurements are also taken and all of this info is sent to a remote optometrist who assesses it. The patient is then given an Rx that can be used to purchase eyewear wherever they choose. If the remote doctor determines the patient needs a comprehensive eye examination, the patient is advised of this and referred to a local eye doctor.

The Blink system joins 2020Now in providing remote eye exams. With the 2020Now model, a remote site is established and patients come to that location for the tests and refraction. The 2020Now network is using ophthalmologists instead of optometrists but the concept is the same-remote health care, what 2020Now calls “telemedicine.”

These systems are just the beginning of how eyecare will be handled differently than how it has been done for decades. Driven by the increasing capabilities of computerization, electronic engineering, and the Internet, this kind of remote eyecare technology will proliferate. As for its success, the consumer will be the final judge as to whether these are acceptable options.

In an eyecare environment where reimbursements are down and patient loads are increasing, optometrists are facing the increasing need to focus on the medical side of their profession. Some will join with groups like EyeNetra to provide the clinical assessment required to make this remote refraction system work.

Blink and 2020Now are both clear indicators of the intent to separate the refraction from the comprehensive eye examination. Is this in the consumer’s best interest? Is it in the best interest of the optical industry that wishes to sell more products to consumers? Are these programs heading consumers toward disastrous ocular outcomes or will they be providing many more Americans with access to a refraction and affordable eyewear?

Stay tuned as this trend plays out.

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