Using Optical Apps App-propriately

By Andrew Karp: Group Editor, Lenses + Technology

It seems like every week a new optical app for smartphones pops up. The apps run the gamut from providing basic information about frame and lens products to enabling users to assess visual acuity and capture pupillary distance and other ocular measurements.

This proliferation of optical apps provides a great new way for our industry to engage consumers. Yet some eyecare professionals say they feel threatened by apps that allow consumers to measure their eyes or test their vision.

Although I appreciate such concerns, they seem largely unfounded. Yes, some apps allow consumers to “play optician,” such as those that let them measure their own PD. That, in turn, will make it easier for consumers to purchase eyewear online. (Of course, if you operate a virtual dispensary, you might actually benefit.)

On the plus side, optical apps stimulate consumer interest in eyewear and eyecare. Consumers who use them become more educated about the products and services they buy. The more educated consumers become, the more involved they become in their own eyecare.

Measuring one’s own PD with a smartphone may not be as accurate as having it done by an experienced optician using a good pupillometer and the optician’s own expert eye. But some of these apps take adequate measurements for single vision and bifocals. Opticians who criticize this yet sell OTC readers which don’t even require PDs should consider the contradiction.

As with any new optical technology, ECPs should familiarize themselves with the latest apps. Savvy ECPs are already using optical apps themselves, integrating them into the eye exam and dispensing processes. Doing so lets patients know you are technologically up to date.