There is a growing and thriving market in the eye care industry of prescription glasses sold at massively discounted prices. Marketing for these companies seems to flood television and radio with commercials. You’re likely to find dozens of colorful flyers stuffed inside your mailbox with all the other coupons and advertisements. Just by reading this article online, you might find banner ads for discount glasses popping up on your web browser for the next week. But, is it worth taking a copy of your eyeglass prescription and filling it at a price that seems too good to be true? Eyeglasses are very precise instruments – having your prescription glasses made by your eye doctor’s office ensures a level of quality, accountability, and customization that makes keeping all your eye care needs at the doctor’s office seem worth it.
The primary reason that patients get their eyes examined at an independent eye doctor’s office is the quality of care that they typically receive. Patients value a good doctor they can trust, along with a superior level of care to make sure that their prescription is perfect. The irony in taking the prescription elsewhere to have glasses made is like rendering the quality of the eye exam to the quality and skill of whomever is making the glasses. A prescription is only as good as the glasses they are made into. There is a level of accountability and perfection in keeping all aspects of care under one roof. Many times, there are customizations that can be made to the glasses that can be approved or ordered by the doctor depending on the application of the eyewear. It is like a compound pharmacy being onsite at your primary care doctor’s office to adjust the dosage of prescribed medication.
Patients commonly report that the cost of glasses at their doctor’s office is too expensive and cite this as a motivating factor to take their prescription elsewhere. This can be easily dispelled for any patients that are using vision insurance to make a purchase for eyewear. Almost all vision insurance plans have fixed costs, allowances, and copays that they will pay for their frames and lenses. These out of pocket expenses will be the same at any in network provider of their insurance plan. It only makes sense in this case to have the fabrication of eyeglasses done by the opticians who are employed by the in-house doctor.
Another element to the value of glasses produced by your eye doctor’s office is the quality of lenses that are being used. Many of the best lens and lens treatments are only available at independent doctors’ offices. Lenses such as the Eyezen, Varilux X-Design and the Crizal family of non-glare treatments are merely imitated but not replicated by big box chain stores and online retailers. The service is also generally significantly higher with a much higher level of patient satisfaction. Measurements and the fitting of prescription eyewear should only be done by a qualified optician. An independent eye doctor’s office will guarantee a team of qualified and well-trained staff.
Lastly, there is a known quality problem in some of the online retailers who allow patients to take their own measurements and have their prescription glasses sent to their home via the mail. These glasses often arrive in need of major adjustments to allow proper vision and comfort. The lenses themselves aren’t always made accurately to the doctor’s prescription either. A study from the American Optometric Association (AOA) with the National Vision Council concluded:
- Of 200 glasses ordered online, only 154 pairs were received
- 8% had incorrect Rx’s ·
- 29% of adult lenses failed safety testing
- 25% of children’s lenses failed safety testing
These are some sobering numbers. Some people may not use their glasses often and simply don’t value (or care) how well they can see out of them. For these people, saving money might be a bigger priority than seeing well. For most, the bitterness of poor-quality lasts much longer than the sweetness of a great deal.