Opternative’s Doctor Locator Tool Draws Fire From Some ODs

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CHICAGO—Opternative has raised concerns by the American Optometric Association and some of its members who are concerned that being listed by the company’s provider locator tool might imply they are affiliated with the online eye test provider. In a posting on its website earlier this week, AOA said it has received requests for assistance from doctors concerned that their practice information appears on Opternative's "Find a Doctor" locator without prior consent or permission. “This isn't the first time Opternative listed unwilling doctors of optometry on its site, and doctor/practice contact information continues to be included on the site,” said AOA, referring to a prior complaint by AOA about “ambiguous wording” on Opternative’s Find a Doctor page which the company subsequently removed.

Provider locators are commonly used on health care websites. Opternative's "Find a Doctor" tool lets consumers search by address or zip code for nearby eyecare providers and lists those doctors by name and address of their practice. Opternative’s webpage directs consumers to contact Opternative's Patient Support Team to find local providers who may not be listed.

Bryan P. Gibson, OD, a partner in the Lubbock, Texas practice Drs. Gibson, Gibson, and Moore, is among those who are critical of Opternative’s doctor listing. “The information that it was implying completely false,” said Dr. Gibson. “Nowhere on the site does it say we’re not affiliated with Opternative, or that we offer comprehensive eye exams, which is not what they’re doing,” said Dr. Gibson, adding that Opternative also listed his practice by an old name it no longer uses.

In response to such concerns, Opternative told VMAIL, “Our Find a Doctor page is simply a way for patients to connect with an eye doctor for comprehensive care and a way for us to ensure all patients have access to the care they need,” a company spokesperson told VMAIL. “The list doesn't affiliate doctors with our online vision test in any way. If Opternative is unable to service a patient with an online vision test because they are outside of our age range (18 to 55), in a state that doesn’t allow online vision tests, or because one of our licensed ophthalmologists recommends they see a doctor in person for more comprehensive care, then we lead them to this page to find a doctor in their area who can.”

The Opternative spokesperson said that many of the doctors listed on its Find a Doctor page find it a “great tool to get new patient leads in their area.” However, Opternative will remove a doctor from the listing upon request, the spokesperson said.

Although Opternative is legally banned from doing business in some states, the company still refers consumers to eye doctors in those states through its practice locator. The spokesperson explained, “The reason states where online vision tests are unavailable are included in the list is because a lot of patients who live in those states don’t realize this fact. So instead of just telling them, ‘I’m sorry we can’t service you,’ we lead them to our Find a Doctor page to help them actually connect with a doctor for care.”