The Ocular Telemedicine Consumer: A Survey


The Vision Council produced the VisionWatch Ocular Telemedicine Services report based on a consumer survey fielded in December, 2018.

The Vision Council defined Ocular Telemedicine Services (OTS) as smartphone apps, websites, online or remote platforms that provide vision/eyecare services that you would otherwise receive by an on-site in-person eye doctor. This may include a vision refraction only with issuance of a corrective prescription for eyeglasses or a comprehensive eye health and vision analysis including an ocular health assessment, vision eyewear measurement, discussion of eye health and vision exam results with an eyecare professional remotely and issuance of a corrective prescription for eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.

Key Findings

• General awareness of OTS is still relatively low. Only 24.8 percent of respondents had any awareness, with 7.2 percent being very aware and familiar.

• As age increases, aggregate awareness of Ocular Telemedicine Services decreases, with a significant drop from the range 35 to 39 years old to 45 to 49 years old.

• Respondents with Managed Vision Care (MVC) had a higher awareness than the aggregate, with 26.6 percent aware on any level. Those without MVC saw the reverse, with only 23 percent aware on any level. Respondents who had an eye exam within the last 6 months were 32.2 percent familiar with OTS, with 11.4 percent very aware and familiar.

• Those with MVC were more likely to have used OTS (16.7 percent) than those without insurance (7.6 percent). Those who had an eye exam within the past 6 months were much more likely (18.6 percent) to have used OTS. This suggests that OTS is growing faster among consumers with more recent exposure to the optical industry.

• Respondents were asked to select any valid reasons for why they tried OTS. The single greatest reason reported was that it was faster to get an appointment via an ocular telemedicine platform, with 20.9 percent of respondents indicating this was a factor.

Only 12.5 percent of respondents indicated any sort of dissatisfaction with the OTS received.

• Respondents reported very positively when asked if they were likely to return to the same OTS provider. 49.1 percent indicated that they were very likely, 23.9 percent that they were somewhat likely, 6.4 percent not very likely, and 8.8 percent not at all likely. The remaining 11.8 percent remained unsure.

• Three reasons were selected by over 16 percent of respondents as to why they don’t participate in OTS. Of these three, two of them are related to a lack of information.

• The likelihood to try OTS increases as age decreases. This trend peaks in the age range of 25 to 29, where 45.13 percent of respondents indicated they were at least somewhat likely to try these services in the future.

• Respondents who had not used OTS were asked if any developments would encourage them to try OTS in the future. The top three responses were: Learning more about the technology and process of ocular telemedicine; My MVC/ insurance plan would have to cover the cost of ocular telemedicine; and recommendation from my eyecare professional or eye doctor.

Justin Bazan, OD

“The Vision Council’s VisionWatch Ocular Telemedicine Services report gave us valuable insights,” said Justin Bazan, OD, optometrist and medical advisor to The Vision Council. Ocular Telemedicine Services are becoming more and more of a popular choice among people. Currently, it is primarily a younger population who are utilizing the services the most, but as awareness, understanding and insurance coverage of OTS expands, we will see an increase of utilization across all ages. Users are overwhelmingly satisfied with the experience and are likely to continue utilizing the services.

“In a society that is accustomed to on-demand services, on-demand OTS delivers,” Bazan remarked. “In my opinion these changes will happen rapidly in the areas of online spectacle and contact lens prescriptions, and less rapidly in the areas of eyecare.

Bazan advised e-care providers to look for novel ways to incorporate or work with OTS. “They should also be aware of what services OTS cannot provide and look to incorporate those as to add a point of differentiation that helps to insulate their practices from the natural loss of patients to OTS.”