Chicago-based Opternative, makers of a web and smartphone-based eye exam, has partnered with contact lens provider 1-800-Contacts to launch InstaRx, an online service that allows existing patients to update their prescriptions without seeing an eye doctor in-person.
The partnership with 1-800-Contacts comes about a year after Opternative launched a stand-alone eye exam, which uses both a computer and smartphone to guide users through a 15 to 20 minute vision test. The computer serves as the digital eye chart and test, much like what is (hopefully) seen at an actual eye clinic, and the phone works as a remote control so the user can move through the exam while standing at the instructed distance. It isn’t an app, but a mobile website that the user accesses via a text-messaged link. Directions through the exam are provided via audio and written prompts. The data is then sent to a licensed local ophthalmologist for evaluation, who then can write a new prescription for corrective lenses.
"We believe that technology has great potential to extend the reach of doctors, improve access for patients, and help control the costs of delivering healthcare services," representatives from 1-800-Contacts said in an email. "As we learned more about Opternative we recognized that their technology could provide customers with an affordable and convenient option for prescription renewal."
Before InstaRx was made available to all 1-800-Contacts customers, the companies ran a nearly yearlong pilot study involving 5,500 patients that was based on Opternative’s clinical study. Now, it is available to all patients between the ages of 18 and 50 wherever telehealth services are legally permitted to operate.
“This is really an ideal pairing,” Opternative CEO and cofounder Aaron Dallek told MobiHealthNews. “We are interested in partnering with lots of online retailers as well as working to develop our platform to service patients in the eye care industry.”
Dallek wouldn’t share the number of doctors working for Opternative, but he did say the company is spending a fair amount of time and resources to ensure they can continue to operate in the 36 states that allow such telemedicine offerings.
“We’re making sure we are in compliance with state regulations as there are ongoing changes in the law,” he said. “We’re a small startup, but we’re really trying to protect patients.”
For 1-800-Contacts, they hope InstaRx helps reduce the time spent between renewing contacts, which is harmful to the eye as contacts begin to break down and harbor bacteria.
"We believe that making the prescription renewal process more convenient and affordable can help reduce the incentive for customers to stretch their use of contacts beyond the recommended wear guidelines, which should ultimately lead to better eye health," representatives for 1-800-Contacts said in an email.
The service is only intended for those who have existing prescriptions and are in need of a renewal, not first-time visitors who haven’t been to an in-person eye doctor before.
“It’s important to remember that not every patients who tries to get an eye exam through us can, because – just like all telehealth – not all solutions are for everyone,” Dallek said.