BUFORD, Ga. (CBS46) -- When Esther Denn walked into an eyeglass store across from the Mall of Georgia, she expected to take a routine eye exam. But the doctor was not in the room at My Eyelab, a new franchise in Georgia.
Instead the exam was performed remotely.
Denn says she sat down in front of a TV screen when a man came on the screen and introduced himself as an optometrist. Denn says the exam lasted five to ten minutes, and when it was over she received a prescription from an eye doctor based in Savannah, Georgia.
Denn purchased two pairs of glasses for $655, but claims, from the beginning that the prescription did not seem right. Five months later, Denn got a second opinion from Dr. Derrick Badaracco at Eyedeal Family Eye Care in Buford. Badaracco says telemedicine has its place, but not here.
“There's benefits to it I think more in rural environments,” Badaracco says. “But in a major metropolitan area like this, in my opinion, there's no excuse for not seeing a doctor and getting a thorough look at the exam.”
Eyedeal Family Eye Care looked at the two glasses Denn received from My Eyelab and confirmed that they had different prescriptions. My Eyelab maintains that its original prescription was correct and points out that by the time she went to see the second doctor her eyesight could have changed.
As a gesture of goodwill, the company reimbursed Denn for the cost of the glasses and also offered her new glasses free of charge.
Here's the full statement CBS46 received from My Eyelab:
“As background, telehealth refers to a broad collection of electronic and telecommunications technologies that support health care delivery and services from distant locations. As telemedicine continues to grow due to the rising costs of healthcare and technological innovations among other factors, telehealth solutions have demonstrated the ability to enhance health outcomes, reduce costs, and provide doctors with greater efficiencies to expand their practices through its remote capabilities. Our focus at My Eyelab is on the customers and in delivering to them accessibility and affordability for eyecare, which telehealth delivers. While we understand the telehealth experience may not be for everyone, it is a good solution for most and we rely on the doctor’s discretion to determine the best candidates.”
When asked for comment, Georgia’s Optometric Association had a stern warning for viewers. The trade agency for optometrists believes My Eyelab is violating the state’s telemedicine laws.
Dan Curan, a spokesman for the organization, says state law requires that eye exams are done “in-person” and based on more than information from an automated testing device. The organization also maintains that telemedicine can only be used at a physician’s office, optometrist’s office, hospital based setting or hospital health system office.
Dr. Mehrdad E. Saadat, the president of the association says, "When a doctor of optometry performs a comprehensive eye exam they are evaluating everything about that patient right from the moment they walk in the room. Technology has its place, but if both pairs of Ms. Denn's prescription glasses had wrong prescriptions, what else was missed about her risk of glaucoma, cancer or other eye diseases? Doctors of optometry had foresight in developing a law to protect the public from harm and this case justifies it."