BOSTON (CBS) — For many of us, eye exams are a must every year, but now some patients are skipping the trip to the doctor and simply logging online instead.

“I was a little hesistant at first, but once I got the hang of it (you) just breeze right through it,” said one man who tried the online eye exam.

One day later, the man’s prescription glasses arrived in the mail.

“It saved me some time as far as getting to the eye doctor,” he said.

Several companies are now offering the online eye exams. Users are asked to read an eye chart similar to the kind you’d find at the doctor’s office.

“All you need is a computer and a smart phone,” says Aaron Dallek of Opternative Eye Exam. “It takes 20-to-25 minutes, and you need 10-to-12 feet of space.”

Steven Lee, co-founder of Opternative, gave a demonstration of how the online program works.

“So, over here the system instructed me to cover up my left eye,” he says. “I’m taking a look at the screen and I’m choosing which number I see on the screen.”

The results are sent to an opthalmologist, who then writes the prescription.

“It’s much more convenient and less expensive than going to the eye doctor,” Dallek says.

But not all doctors think the exam is thorough enough.

“I just don’t understand how just looking at those numbers that come back (through) an automated system can really tell the doctor what he or she needs to know regarding that patient’s prescription ought to be, much less understanding what the patient’s general health or eye situation is,” says Dr. Stephen Loomis of American Optometric Association.

Loomis says vision is only a small part of a complete eye exam.

“I examine the cornea, the tear film…all the components of the external portion of the eye,” he says.

“We care deeply about patient’s eye health, and we make it so patients cannot use the Opternative exam more than four years in a row,” Dallek says.

The prices for these online eye exams vary, and be aware that some of these companies don’t take insurance.

Dr. Mallika Marshall


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