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Blink’s smartphone powered devices

The landscape of new forms of access continues to grow, and eyecare is one of its many components.

From grocery shopping to taxi services, convenience by way of technology is here to stay. A recent article in Wired magazine, “Why Telemedicine Needs to Redesign the Doctor’s Appointment,” describes several companies through which the general public can now access medical care via video chat and text. And while the offerings are different in nature than the aforementioned services, the optical industry has also made its way onto this very 21st-century scene.

With three smartphone-enabled devices that collectively fit into a briefcase, Blink, by Eyenetra, is taking eyecare on the road. Literally. Founder and Chief Product Officer David Schafran, whose family includes several optometrists, explained that Blink, which is HIPAA-compliant, provides a much-needed convenience for many people who might otherwise neglect to make such an appointment, but that ECPs are still a necessary component of the process, as it should be. “Our whole model is about extending the reach of optometry,” he says. “Our model doesn’t work without optometrists. It’s based on optometrist participation.” Blink is currently available in New York City, but has plans to expand it in the near future. ECPs interested in participating can contact the company through its website.

Here’s how it works. Using Blink’s app, patients book an appointment. A technician, called a visioneer, comes to the patient’s home or office and administers the same tests that historically would be done in the optometrist’s office. The visioneer shares the data with a participating ECP, and soon after this, the patient receives a digital prescription. (If the visioneer detects a complication, she gives a referral for an in-person comprehensive exam.)

The devices include the Netra (replaces the autorefractor), the Netrometer (replaces the lensometer), and the Netropter (replaces the phoropter).

In addition to its technological advances and hopes for expansion in the coming months and years, Blink is behind several outreach efforts, including one where the company donates free tests and glasses to people in need, one for every paid test it gives.

With plans to launch this summer, Opternative bills itself on its website as “a technology company providing the world’s first online refractive eye exam that delivers a glasses or contact lens prescription.” (Opternative executives were not taking press requests at the time when this article was written.)

In addition to a computer, patients must have access to a web-enabled phone and about 12 ft. of space between themselves and the computer. ECPs will be able to use the service within their practices or remotely.

On its site, Opternative offers a clarification that covers its definition of “good health,” support of the AOA’s recommendation for in-person comprehensive eye exams, and recommendations for ECPs who utilize the service.

Technology that accommodates the general public’s demand for increased convenience is here to stay, and the next step is for ECPs to strike a balance with these inevitable changes.

Rachel Bozek is a writer and editor who includes the optical field as one of her areas of expertise.


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