Critics say VSP’s online dispensary will push patients toward InternetJanuary 28, 2013
A new online eyeglass dispensary, now being test marketed by VSP Vision Care under the name “Eyeconic,” has the potential to disrupt more patient-practitioner relationships than it creates, according to AOA Board of Trustees member David A. Cockrell, O. D. The insurer’s dispensary website is being test-marketed to VSP clients in Oklahoma, with direct mailings to plan beneficiaries offering incentives for use before Feb. 28, 2013. A national rollout to all 55 million VSP members is anticipated sometime this year.
If VSP follows through with its nationwide marketing plan, it will become the largest vision plan actively encouraging consumers to purchase prescription eyeglasses through a website instead of a doctor’s office, a pivotal boost to Internet sales at a time when the AOA and other eye health organizations are raising serious concerns about the safety and quality of prescription eyewear available online. View the VSP Eyeconic Flier 1.
A joint study by a panel of eye care and eyewear industry experts representing the AOA, The Vision Council, and the Optical Laboratories Association, published in September 2011, “Safety and compliance of prescription spectacles ordered by the public via the Internet,” found half of all eyeglasses prescriptions dispensed through online services are filled incorrectly (read more at http://bit.ly/xt6LIj).
VSP press releases say Eyeconic will help practitioners both retain and attract patients by allowing them to shop for eyewear at their leisure and select from a larger array of frames than might be offered in many practice dispensaries, at potentially lower prices.
“However, Eyeconic will be marketed to VSP enrollees, most of whom already have ongoing relationships with eye care providers,” said Dr. Cockrell. “By encouraging patients to move toward the Internet as a primary source of eyewear products and information, the service will undermine traditional patient-practitioner relationships, reducing the likelihood that patients will undergo periodic eye examinations or seek necessary follow-up care for diagnosed eye conditions and ultimately proving detrimental to both patient care and traditional vision care practice.”
“Chances for suboptimal correction will increase because patients will be placed in the position of having to recognize the frames that are best for correction of their vision problems, without the assistance of an eye care professional or trained dispensary personnel,” Dr. Cockrell said. “Unlike other online eyewear retailers, Eyeconic will provide prescribing practitioners a share of the revenues from sales to their patients, but that will basically amount to “a dispensing fee.”
In return for that fee, practitioners will be required to take responsibility for the most problematic aspects of dispensing, he contends. “That means when problems occur, the optometrist and dispensary staff will be left to fix them – and take the blame for them,” Dr. Cockrell said.