In 2015, Opternative became the first online service to provide physician-issued prescriptions for glasses or contacts. Qualified consumers would use a computer and smartphone to take a vision test from home and receive a prescription shortly after.
However, the FDA changed its fate.
The United States Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to the online vision test company Opternative in October 2017, requesting the company cease activities that result in the misbranding or adulteration of its test as an “eye examination” mobile medical app device, according to CNN.
In 2018, according to Review of Optometry, Opternative rebranded as “Visibly.”
“The name ‘Opternative’ really had this negative connotation in the industry and posed an existential threat to optometrists, even though we’re definitely not a replacement for optometrists in any way,” explains Steven Lee, OD, a company founder..
Regardless of the company’s name, in May 2019, after heavy pressure from the American Optometric Association (AOA), the online vision test had been recalled by the company (which had changed its name to Visibly), according to the U.S. Food & Drug Association (FDA).
Then came the Coronavirus
In April of 2020, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the FDA issued guidance to expand the capability of remote ophthalmic assessment and to facilitate patient care during the pandemic.
Visibly announced it will globally provide optometrists, ophthalmologists, and optical service providers free access to its virtual vision test technology to help patients meet their eye health needs during the pandemic.
You may now be able to use the service to get an online eye examination.
In this article, we’ll answer your questions regarding the use of the Visibly service.
What is Visibly?
Visibly offers advanced eye care telehealth technology to connect consumers with licensed eye care professionals for a vision test. The technology can be accessed online, anywhere, anytime.
Note: the test is strictly to renew your expired prescription. A licensed eye care professional in your state will issue your updated prescription—provided you’re eligible—that can be used to purchase glasses or contacts from any retailer.
Can anyone use the Visibly online vision test?
No. Again, you need to have an outdated prescription and you need to be age 18 to 55.
What’s more, online vision tests are not approved in every state. A post from Americans for Vision Care Innovation claims online vision testing services, are currently allowed in 37 states (AL, AK, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IA, IL, KS, KY, MA, ME, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY).
Is the Visibly test the same as visiting an eye doctor?
It’s not. An online vision test focuses on visual acuity and simply enables you to quickly obtain a valid prescription to replace your glasses.
Under no circumstance should the online vision test be thought of as a replacement for getting a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist where a trained eye care professional carefully examines the health of your eyes.
As All About Vision points out, “Online eye exams cannot determine if you have cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and other eye or general health problems that your eye doctor can detect during a comprehensive eye exam.”
What will you need to complete the test?
It takes approximately 10 minutes. You’ll need:
- A computer and smartphone—Your computer will reveal an eye test and you’ll proceed through it on your phone.
- 10 feet of space—You’ll need to back 10 feet away from your computer.
- A credit card—The reason you need a credit card is you’ll use it to calibrate your screen size for the exam.
- A vision prescription—The service enables you to renew existing or old prescriptions.
Where do you get your Rx?
You can get started at the consumer-facing version at GoVisibly.com. Fees will apply.
However, for a limited time, you can renew your prescription with the online vision test, from Visibly, offered free via EZContacts.
*The online vision test service does not include any type of eye health exam. Full details are offered at the page linked above.