NYSOA says Blink in-home vision test is illegal

The New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA) and the New York Board of Optometry is challenging a company that offers in-home vision testing, stating that its services are inconsistent with the law.

Albany, NY-The New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA) and the New York Board of Optometry is challenging a company that offers in-home vision testing, stating that its services are inconsistent with the law.

Blink, a new service from EyeNetra, offers at-home, on-demand vision tests in New York City. The tests are conducted by “visioneers,” not optometrists, using a number of smartphone-based refractive tools. An optometrist remotely supervises and reviews the data collected by the visioneer-including the patient’s eye health, medical history, and lifestyle and vision needs. If the optometrist confirms the prescription, Blink sends the patient a digital prescription for glasses within 24 hours. Blink told Optometry Times that it emphasizes to its clients that the test is not a comprehensive eye exam and that it offers referrals to local eyecare professionals.

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Blink recently met with the state board to explain its business model.

After the presentation, NYSOA concluded that the company’s business model was inconsistent with the state law. The association sent a letter to the New York Education Department and its Office of Professional Discipline identifying several potential breaches of state laws and regulations, including:

• Potential breach in the scopes of practice of optometry and ophthalmic dispensing

• Potential professional misconduct by delegating professional tasks to unlicensed and unsupervised employees

•Potential illegal fee-splitting between an unlicensed referral service and a licensed practitioner

"We are concerned, regardless of whatever disclaimers Blink might make, that patients who receive mobile refractions from unsupervised and unlicensed 'visioneers' will assume that they have received a comprehensive eye health examination," says NYSOA President Michele Lagana, OD, in a statement.

Blink co-founder David Schafran told Optometry Times that the company is aware of the complaint, but Blink is not prepared to comment given the formal nature of the complaint and the request by NYSOA for an investigation.

NYSOA Executive Director Jan Dorman says that the association is concerned about the doctor-patient relationship, which he believes is lacking in Blink’s services.

“With all this new technology, we believe that relationship is the missing piece,” he says. “There is still a professional who is responsible for making decisions about that patient’s health.”

Dorman says many professions in New York-and New York City in particular-are seeing an increase in disruptive technology. He says the state has very little regulation or oversight, but he believes other professions will likely have similar problems on their hands in the future as technology changes the way people gain access to health care.  

Next: What AOA has to say


AOA supports NYSOA decision

The American Optometric Association (AOA) is backing the decision by the NYSOA, stating that there is no substitute for an in-person, comprehensive eye exam.

“AOA is not opposed to cutting-edge technology. But AOA is opposed to bad patient care," says AOA President Steven A. Loomis, OD, in a statement. “When technology is abused in a manner that undermines the critical doctor-patient relationship, AOA will speak out and act to insure patients receive the care they deserve.

“The notion that eye care can be delivered by an iPhone and minimally-trained technicians is not only a bad idea, it's dangerous. Patients will be harmed,” he says. “Misleading patients into believing mobile refractive services result in adequate care is egregious in any venture, but in a large metropolitan city in which proper eye care is readily available, it highlights the truth that these services are not coming into existence to provide “care” to an underserved population. In fact, it's about nothing but generating huge profits to huge companies at huge risk to patients."

Click next to read our original story, “Blink at-home vision test worries ODs”


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