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Article : Possible Future For Optometry?



I was recently in an online forum that started out discussing a sight-impaired patient purchasing spectacles online. In the UK this is a breach of the Opticians Act 1989 and is banned for public protection. 

Sight impaired and severely sight impaired people are deemed to be at a greater need of protection to ensure what vision they have is protected. The same law also applies to children under the age of sixteen. This got me thinking, how far away are we from removing the risk of buying online or even needing to book into a high street optician for a sight test?

We are in a connected age. Industry 4.0 is the term used for today's connected, cloud-based, AI-driven technology, and this is being applied to all industries. In the wider medical field, we already have remote robotic surgery and artificial intelligence paired with MRI scans for faster more accurate diagnoses. It will not be long before this potential is applied to the optical world.

A fundus camera or retinal imaging system is often used by a technician and the results presented to the optometrist or ophthalmologist for review. I can imagine that it will not be long before someone produces a connected box that a patient sits at and all the images are taken in a few seconds with results available to be reviewed, sliced and manipulated for any potential pathologies. Hook this up to an AI and only the images that fall within a certain percentage of risk will even be shown to the Optometrist.

In some countries, an autorefractor is sufficient to produce a prescription. Many opticians, in countries where it is not permitted, have doubts about this. Stating that it is purely objective, and no account of the patient’s preference is taken. Many Optometrists say they like to see the patient’s reactions as they change the lenses to get a feel for what works best. But we have AI that can read a facial expression, and a small phoropter driven by an AI could produce a prescription.

Now imagine being able to walk into a photo booth, tapping your credit card and getting a full sight test at any time of the day or night that suits you. If there is anything untoward the AI will refer to an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A prescription is produced. Your head scanned and your facial measurements and PD’s emailed to you ready to order your perfectly fitting spectacles online should you wish.

The future really is the undiscovered country and is equally exciting and frightening, but I have never been afraid of adopting new ways of doing things. “This is how we have always done it” are the most dangerous words in any industry.


By Jim Cox - Product Owner at EYOTO™