On Apple’s most recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook didn’t talk much about the company’s various healthcare overtures. But he did make a passing mention of the company’s working with LensCrafters, a division of Luxottica that sells eyeglasses — and eye doctor visits.
“LensCrafters, one of the largest optical retail brands in North America, will be using over 7,000 iPad Pros to enable digital eye exams and digital optical measurements in a personalized and interactive experience,” Cook said on the call.
MobiHealthNews spoke with Cyndy Dinius, senior director of innovation and commercialization at LensCrafters, about what the retail brand is doing with those iPads.
“Luxottica does have a strategic partnership with Apple and over the past several years we have been developing and have rolled out new store experiences that have leveraged state-of-the-art technology and services,” Dinius said. “This is really grounded on our consumer insights, which is very important, to make sure each and every one of our patients and customers has the best experience at Lenscrafters every time.”
The bedrock of this digital offering is Clarifye, a digital eye exam that LensCrafters began rolling out back in 2013 and now offers in 65 percent of its stores. The system scans more of the eye than a traditional exam and pinpoints the patient’s prescription more closely than older systems, meaning less time is spent on “subjective refraction” — the test glasses-wearers are more familiar with as the “Which is clearer, 1 or 2?” test.
“For one of our platforms, the exam is actually operated off of the iPad itself,” Dinius said. “So the doctor doesn’t go up and manually turn dials like in the exam chair, they actually, off of the iPad, run the digital refractor, changing the lenses to enable the customer to refine their final prescription. We do that directly off of the tablet. This enables our doctor to be more present with the patient instead of up and manually changing lenses and dials. It allows us to be more engaged.”
The iPad also plays a role in the doctor’s interaction with the patient after the exam.
“Our consultation system and all the visuals we have are on the iPad so the doctor can literally sit by the patient, showing and pointing out their eye health images, the simulations, talk about lens benefits, those types of things in a very personal, contemplative way. That is a very important part of our Clarifye experience. And it’s all done on the iPad,” Dinius said.
Lenscrafters uses technology in a number of other ways. For one, the company is starting to use virtual reality to help explain to caregivers what kind of vision problems their children or grown-up parents are dealing with. This video is an example of that kind of simulation.
The company also offers an app, MyLook, that helps people see what different kinds of frames would look like on their face.
Perhaps most importantly, the company uses a digital technology called AccuFit to measure how to place the Clarifye prescription in the lenses so customers will see their best.
“A lot of the industry still uses felt markers, where a person will look at the person wearing the glasses and they’ll take a felt marker and try to dot the center of the pupil in the lens that they’re wearing,” Dinius said. “That’s how it’s done today. It’s not very precise. It’s not engaging since you’re doing it to the person. What we do is we capture a digital image of them wearing the frame and can digitally measure to a tenth of a millimeter personalized, advanced metrics, which allows us to determine the placement of that prescription in the lens.”
There’s one kind of optical health technology that Luxottica has chosen not to offer, and that’s remote eye exams via mobile devices. While startup companies like Opternative and online retailers like Warby Parker have started to offer these services, Benjamin Chudner, Luxottica North America’s senior clinical director, says his company isn’t interested.
“We at Luxottica believe refraction is an integral part of a comprehensive eye exam and is not to be separated out,” he said. “What they’re doing, to us, would not qualify as an eye exam. And so it’s completely different from what we’re doing. We believe in the importance of a doctor-patient relationship and so, for us, the most important thing is making sure we establish a great relationship between our doctors and the patients, and that they have a fantastic eye exam experience, which then leads to a very accurate prescription through the Clarifye system.”
Chudner worries that a reliance on these remote examinations, which don’t check for ocular conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration, could be detrimental to patients’ health.
Chudner also said that the company continues to research new ways to use digital technologies.
“We’re constantly looking at the technology that’s out there and looking for opportunities to enhance our digital offerings for customers,” he said. “So we have some things on the horizon that will have much more impact on both our customers and our patients in the digital space. We see it as an obligation as a leader in the industry to keep researching and evaluating the technologies that are out there.”