Of course, taking a full exam every year is not always tasty – or possible – for patients. If your recipe expires, but you just want new frames, you may have a hard time waiting for the proper review.
“Convenience is really important,” says Jorge Cuadros, a clinical telehealth researcher at UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry. “Right now you have to call, make an appointment, get off, take time off from work, and then do an eye examination. And then you spend so much time when you could just do an online test just to renew your recipe. “
Warby is well aware of the limitations of the service. The application cannot detect serious eye problems, such as macular degeneration or cancer. Gilboa’s co-CEO says he sees the virtual vision test as an adjunct to traditional eye exams, not a replacement. The goal is not to fit all the nuances of a complete overview into an app.
“We don’t replicate all the parts,” he says. “We really separate that comprehensive health examination and focus only on the part that relates to your ability to see and visual acuity for glasses and contact lenses.”
This separation of services in telemedicine expanded during the Covid-19 pandemic, making many health examinations much more accessible to many people. But a side effect of that trend is that the way patients think about comprehensive health care has become fragmented.
“This isn’t just in optometry,” Richdale says. “We see that you can go online and get a prescription for birth control, testosterone or other things. And these companies are making money. So they take out the pieces they think they can because they are relatively benign and sell them directly to the consumer. You think, ‘Those are glasses. What damage can it cause? ‘”
Companies like Warby Parker can provide ample disclaimers, but that doesn’t mean customers will abide by them. The easier it is to bypass traditional care, the easier it is for people to ignore seemingly small health problems until it’s too late.
“The general philosophy in the U.S. seems to be moving away from preventative care and health checkups, and more toward emergency care,” Richdale says. “You throw a can on the road until one day it’s not your problem.”
Experts say the problem is not in telemedicine itself, but in how it is applied. Cuadros describes the optimal approach as one that expands but does not replace existing care provided by physicians. And that can be best used by doctors at the local level. Virtual vision tests can be very helpful, especially if they are in the hands of a doctor who is familiar with your patient’s needs.
“Maybe that person behind the curtain shouldn’t just be an anonymous eye doctor somewhere in any company’s panel,” Cuadros says. “But it should be your local ophthalmologist, a person you would see anyway. Include local eye care providers in the equation. “
Whether Warby Parker can build enough trust to force people to leave their local optometrist and adopt a hybrid approach to vision care – half online and half in the Warby Parker store – remains to be seen. But as it expands its presence and capabilities both online and offline, the convenience of its online services will be a strong sales advantage.
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