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.

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.
Why Online Vision Tests can't Replace your Eye Doctor?
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

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.

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.

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