The digital age has changed the way people view communication and commerce. In a world where interaction and trade are easier than ever to accomplish, everything from banking to transportation is being affected. From moves to decentralized platforms to a trend for turning everything toward online functionality, more industries are beginning to change. But certain developments must work for their right to exist.
The recent emergence of an online vision test startup has changed the way many are looking at eye exams – and medical care in general. Opternative, an online startup, is making waves in the health-tech industry by giving users the option of getting an eye exam – without leaving their home. But the promising company is battling regulators for the right to operate in South Carolina.
Optometrists have called the website unsafe and unproven. The Chicago Tribune notes that this Chicago startup has a website that allows users to self-perform an eye exam for $40 – and they’ve been fighting legal battles for months.
The test results then generate a corrective prescription. While Opternative currently operates in 39 states, recent laws in Georgia, Indiana, and now South Carolina prohibit users from taking advantage of this option at the behest of lobbying. Both local groups and The American Optometric Association have been vocal about their disapproval of Opternative’s business model.
But the startup continues to battle for their right to operate, namely in opposition to a legal measure in the state’s Eye Care Consumer Protection Law. This provision states that vision tests may not be based entirely on refractive data or an automated testing device. The purported meaning of this mandate is to protect public health and to stop individuals from getting results which are less than optimal.
But Opternative has found an alley in the libertarian law firm Institute for Justice. The organization has helped the health-tech startup file a lawsuit in South Carolina on the basis that this law violates the creators right to make an honest living. Many of those who are in favor of banning the site maintain that they are concerned about public health issues and the widespread effects of diminished vision being undiagnosed (or diagnosed improperly).
However, others view this type of legislative action as nothing more than a protectionist mechanism to prop up an optometry model that many consider to be outdated. Centralized locations are often slow to respond to a customer’s needs if they are the only facility in the area. In addition, costs can be higher and there may be complications with insurance.
This is in addition to the fact that evidence suggests Opternative’s results are accurate. All results are reviewed by a specialist, and the business model has proven to be a popular choice in nearly 80% of US states. While many have spoken highly of the service, the company continues to battle against legal blockades.
Though the startup has cited studies which show its efficiency, regulators seem uninterested in budging. While the website acknowledges that a more comprehensive exam can only be found at an optometrists office, doctors and public health officials maintain that a comprehensive exam can help catch early issues and signs of diseases which affect the eyes.
The startup plans to continue their battle in court, with hopes of eventually offering this option to individuals in all 50 states.