Why Online Vision Tests can't Replace your Eye Doctor?

While the advancement of medical technology is exciting, it is important to consider whether the promises of new technology are factual. There are several programs and apps on the market today that guarantee accurate online vision testing. Some companies have even claimed that their examinations are as reliable as in-person assessments.

Why Online Vision Tests can't Replace your Eye Doctor? in Olympia

Is this true?

It is important to note that the mere availability of a new vision testing app for a smartphone does not reflect on its efficacy, or how appropriate it is in its current form for the masses.

American Family Vision Clinic

Online Vision Tests: Fact and Fiction

While online testing may ultimately prove to be a promising development in eyecare, there are currently significant limitations to these programs. 


The Limitations of Technology

The drawbacks to utilizing current wired vision exams include the following:

  • They are untested: The sole efficacy of these programs is in their purported ability to test visual acuity and aid in the process of assessing and prescribing glasses and contact lenses. Yet even such claims are unproven. Their ability to accurately test visual acuity is still being debated, and it will be years before proper academic studies can make a definitive statement regarding their efficacy. 
  • Technological Limitations: Such technology is limited by its inability to assess eye health or detect ocular disorders such as glaucoma, infections, allergies, injuries sustained from trauma, and visual-motor and neurological deficits. 

Despite the bold claims of these networked programs, there are no current replacements for optometrists or ophthalmologists who alone can provide the kinds of essential comprehensive in-person examinations.

The Limitations of Technology
Risks of Online Testing

Risks of Online Testing

Far from merely being a limited or flawed tool, the most serious issues involve the consequence of people’s reliance on such tools, which can range from minor to severe. The following are just a few examples of possible downsides of such technology:

  • The accuracy of these tests to test visual acuity is unclear, and they cannot check overall eye health.
  • The annoyance of having an inaccurate online generated prescription for eyeglasses: For example, a person with poor eyesight may be given an incorrect prescription resulting in difficulties in school, athletics, work, and social interactions.
  • Safety: Consider the danger of a person with an inadequate or incorrect prescription driving a car.
  • Harmful Reliance: The following are just a few examples of people who may neglect proper medical evaluations:
  • A diabetic at risk of deteriorating vision, gets an incorrect sense from an online-test that his condition is stable, when an in-person exam would have detected severe erosion. 
  • A person with undetected glaucoma avoids an annual exam during a Covid lockdown, because an online test revealed no vision changes. 
  • A woman takes an online test whose results mirror those of last year’s in-person exam. She is pleased and cancels her upcoming eye exam for the following day. What the online test doesn’t detect is the beginning stages of a corneal infection which would have been detected by an optometrist. 
  • A child with undetected visual motor or cognitive deficits takes an online examination with the help of his mother. These deficits will never be discovered using such limited and insufficient technology.

Many of those who rely on such technology end up neglecting comprehensive eye examinations and subsequent treatment essential for preventing, detecting, monitoring, and treating ocular disorders. This can be particularly harmful for those vulnerable to eye disorders.

Risks of Online Testing

New Online Vision Programs

The availability of new online vision programs are examples of technological medical advancements offering exciting possibilities for the future. While the eventual benefits may prove real, in their current forms they are unable to test overall eye health. Their current ability to assess visual acuity, or prescribe glasses or contact lenses remains uncertain. The technology is still new and it will be years before proper studies can make an accurate analysis.

Such testing cannot replace comprehensive in-person examinations and the medical care of an in-person doctor. They may even be undesirable or harmful for the young, the elderly, and those predisposed to visual disorders. By relying on these technologies and accepting inaccurate or incomplete results, they may end up neglecting their health.

Common Questions

It is difficult to say if there are "any" benefits, since the technology is new and very limited, and its ability to check visual acuity remains uncertain. A further drawback is that such a vision test will provide a false assessment if the exam is taken incorrectly. Many experts maintain that in their current format such tests are inappropriate for the very young, the elderly, and those with diseases requiring routine comprehensive exams. Reputable professional organizations such as the American Optometric Association (AOA) have expressed concern that such evaluations can be harmful since inaccurate information may prevent someone from seeking medical care or intervention, based on false, misleading, or inadequate findings. At best they may be a limited tool for certain demographics, to be used in conjunction with an optometrist or ophthalmologist’s approval. Under such circumstances they may be suitable for certain people looking to renew a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, when the results accord with previous findings of conventional testing. Under a professional’s guidance they may be useful as a non-diagnostic monitoring tool to be followed up with proper examinations.
While experts can't be certain, potential long-term possibilities from improved technology may include an ability to test people living in remote areas far from conventional testing centers, as well as in lowering costs of eye care.The potential to treat more people while saving them time and money is intriguing.
Online vision tests evaluate your vision by using letters, shapes, and lines. A few of the tests can even provide you with a prescription for eyeglasses after an optometrist reviews the information. It's important to be aware that an online test doesn't assess everything that needs to be examined. This might provide you with a general idea of refractive errors, vision acuity, light sensitivity, and color perception. However, a computer cannot detect serious eye diseases. Optometrists examine more than your vision when performing an eye examination. Early signs of macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts can be detected during the exam. If the symptoms are detected in their early stages, treatments will be more effective.
Why Online Vision Tests can't Replace your Eye Doctor?
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

When was your last eye examination? 

There is no substitute for in-person care from licensed professionals who can provide essential exams to maintain overall eye health. Routine testing is important. Contact us today to find out more and to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an eye exam with our optometrist by calling (360) 491-2121. Patients searching for advanced medical eye care visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
1 2 3



How Does Vision Therapy Improve Reading Ability?

According to the American Optometric Association, approximately 80% of what a child learns in school is acquired through vision, and […]

Read More

What Causes Bloodshot Eyes? Understanding the Causes and Treatments

Bloodshot eyes can be alarming, but they are not always a cause for concern. In this blog, we will discuss […]

Read More

Ocular Rosacea: Understanding the Symptoms and Best Treatment Options

Rosacea is a skin condition that affects many people. While it is commonly found on the face, rosacea can also […]

Read More
see all blogs

Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare

American Family Vision Clinic Logo

Working Hours




400 Yauger Way SW. Bldg 1, Ste A Olympia, WA 98502
(360) 459-1097
Website Accessibility Policy
Safety protocols page
privacy policy
For Patients
Call Us
eyefile-adduserphone-handsetcalendar-fullarrow-uparrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram