AOA issues consumer health alert for online vision tests

October 27, 2022
The public-facing alert encourages consumers to ask discerning questions about online vision tests before entrusting their eye health care to a direct-to-consumer service.
Consumer health alert

Do you really know what you’re getting with an online vision test? The question epitomizes the AOA’s latest consumer health alert, cautioning Americans about what they—and these tests—could be missing.

Issued on Oct. 27, the consumer health alert guides the public on key questions that individuals should ask when considering the use of online vision tests and makes them aware of potential drawbacks from choosing services that tout quick fixes over comprehensive care services. As new, direct-to-consumer products enter the market, the AOA seeks to provide accurate information regarding eye health and vision care, as well as the potential limitations of certain technologies.

The consumer health alert poses five important questions for consumers, including:

  1. Can you find the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval statement for the company and its test, and is the company operating within that authority?
  2. Do you know the doctor of optometry or ophthalmologist who is prescribing your contact lenses?
  3. Are you asked to sign any forms that seek to release the company from liability?
  4. Can you ask the doctor who is prescribing the contact lenses any questions when you are using an online vision test?
  5. What does a particular online vision test actually assess?

Corresponding answers or real-world examples emphasize the importance of consumers asking themselves these questions before utilizing an online vision test. For instance, the consumer health alert stresses the importance of verifying “FDA approval statements,” especially given how one online vision test received FDA approval but doesn’t currently operate in accordance with that granted approval.

In addition to dissemination as a press release, the consumer health alert is available as a downloadable resource for optometry offices to discuss with patients or share on their social media.

The consumer health alert stems from the AOA’s and affiliates’ continued call to safeguard the quality care standards for eye health and vision care and supports the doctor-patient relationship as the foundation of health outcomes. According to the AOA’s Telemedicine in Optometry guidance, the standard of care must remain the same regardless of whether services are provided in person, remotely via telehealth or through any combination thereof.

The public should be aware of any company claiming its device can replace the comprehensive care provided by a doctor. In-person, comprehensive eye examinations allow doctors of optometry to assess the health of the eyes and eye tissue, potentially identifying more than 270 health and sight-threatening diseases. Online vision tests that assess only visual acuity may miss these clinical factors.

How to report suspicious sales, adverse events

Although not a regulatory enforcement agency, the AOA regularly meets with government agencies and policymakers to inform them of illegal business practices and threats to patients’ safety. Better documentation of unlawful sales and adverse events can help the AOA build a case for greater enforcement activity among the Federal Trade Commission and FDA.

Doctors of optometry may find additional information and means for reporting unlawful or suspicious sales, adverse events or suspected violations of federal laws or regulations governing contact lens prescriptions at the AOA's Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) compliance and contact lens safety page.

For more information on illegal retailer or incident reporting, doctors may also directly contact AOA advocacy staff.

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