Taking time out of your day to make an appointment and see an optometrist isn't always that agreeable, and that's before they blow those little puffs of air onto your eyeballs. But one Chicago-based startup has visions of making eye examinations a lot more accessible. Since 2012, Opternative has been developing an online eye tester that lets users obtain prescriptions for glasses and contacts from the comfort of the home or office. And now with clinical trial success under its belt, it's rolling the service out to the public.

The Opternative test is free and users will need only a smartphone, Wi-Fi and a computer. The online refractive eye exam follows the same principles of those that take place in a doctor's office. After answering a few questions, patients are shown a series of images on the computer screen to which they respond using their smartphone, indicating how clearly they can view them.

The entire process takes between 20 to 25 minutes and the results are then sent along to a qualified ophthalmologist for review. Up until this point the service remains free, but at US$40 for glasses or contacts or $60 for both, patients can have a signed prescription returned within 24 hours. They are then free to use this either in regular eyewear stores or online.

So Opternative is potentially cutting the time it takes to secure appropriate eyewear from weeks down to days. And a clinical study where Opternative's online exam was compared to a traditional refractive exam indicated it to be equally as accurate.

While Opternative's looks to be the first online eye exam of its kind, there are others aiming to use the power of the internet to improve access to ocular healthcare. At the center of many of these efforts is the trusty old smartphone, which has been repurposed as eye-testing systems under various guises. EyeGo, Peek and SVOne are a few examples, though these require additional hardware attachments in order to function.

Opternative is intended for use by people between the ages of 18 and 40 and in good health. Currently the exam is only available in 25 US states, though the company says it plans to extend the service to other states soon, with other countries to follow.

Source: Opternative