Smart moves

Smartphone and tablet vision tests are widely used by optometrists and patients in the US, while robust legislation prevents their use in the UK. But will this always be the case? Carolyn Scott looks for answers.

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Advances in technology have resulted in a new option for purchasing spectacles – one that combines optometric assessment with purchases through the internet. As yet, this combination is unavailable to UK customers due to current legislation. However, other countries, most notably the US, are offering opportunities for people to access a full range of optometry services via apps, their smartphone, and tablets.

One organisation offering such services in the US is Visibly – the new name for Opternative. The company charges $35 for a “prescription renewal” test, which requires people to use both their smartphone and computer. The results are then assessed by a Visibly optometrist within 24 hours of the test. A version of the system is also available for use by eye care professionals as part of a face-to-face consultation. According to the Visibly website, the tests rely on built-in algorithms, software checks and reviews from clinicians to identify if the patient is making consistent selections. 

The online test is not intended to replace regular comprehensive eye examinations, says the company on its website. Yet, there remain concerns. The American Optometric Association (AOA) has pointed out a lack of peer-reviewed studies of the online device. 

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