Warby Parker soft-launches eye exam app for customers

By Jonah Comstock
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Online eye glasses retailer Warby Parker has launched a new app to offer online eye exams to users. While a number of companies offer ocular telehealth in various forms to users in regulatory-friendly states, and some of those companies also sell contact lenses, Warby Parker would be the first glasses retailer to venture into the space.

The FDA-registered app, called Prescription Check, is currently being offered for free to users in California, Florida, New York, and Virginia. It's also only available for those who currently own Warby Parker glasses. The company plans to expand to additional states in the future, but also may not continue to offer the app free of charge.

Like most other smartphone eye exams from companies like Opternative and Simple Contacts, Prescription Check doesn't replace a comprehensive eye exam; it merely measures refractive error. Users are still encouraged to get their eyes checked regularly for things like cataracts or glaucoma. The vision test takes about 20 minutes and requires 12 feet of space, and it requires that users have both a smartphone and a computer.

And, like other existing smartphone eye tests, it appears that Warby Parker won't offer users a new prescription via the app if their prescription has changed. A doctor will review the test results and, if the user's prescription hasn't changed, will renew their prescription. If it has, the doctor will recommend a comprehensive eye exam. Either way, they'll respond within 24 hours.

Warby Parker started working on this service about two years ago, when smartphone eye exams were an even more nascent space than they are now. Now they are introducing it into a world where ocular telemedicine is a bit of a hot topic in the legislative world.

Similar companies have faced their own regulatory challenges, including in South Carolina where a law was passed outlawing smartphone-based eye exams, with the state legislature actually overriding the governor's veto to get the law through. That law is currently the subject of a lawsuit from Opternative. On the other hand, the state of Virginia recently passed a proactive law that protects ocular telemedicine services, a measure that was supported by Opternative, Simple Contacts, and a number of other companies in the burgeoning space.