While once a concept of the future, online vision tests are starting to become an option for employees—with these tests currently being offered by several websites. But despite their convenience, the American Optometric Association states that online vision tests are “no substitute for an in-person, comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”

New research from Transitions Optical dives further into this topic—revealing that while today’s employees are interested in coverage of online vision tests, there is a tremendous lack of understanding regarding what these tests entail, as well as a great need to educate employees on the importance of not skipping out on their annual, comprehensive appointments.

 A Need for Education

According to the ninth annual Transitions Optical Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits survey,[i] half of employees not already enrolled in a vision plan said that they would be more likely to enroll if the plan “fully covered online eye exams.” Furthermore, six in 10 employees said they would be more likely to get their eyes checked more often if their employer offered this coverage.

But despite this initial interest, the survey also found that most employees do not understand what online vision tests are—with two-thirds saying they are “unfamiliar with online eye exams,” and nearly half saying they are “very unfamiliar” with them. More alarmingly, the research revealed that four in 10 employees believe that “online eye exams that provide glasses or contact lens prescriptions are a suitable replacement for in-office eye exams.”

“Many people believe that an eye exam is just about getting the right glasses or contacts to help them see better, but it’s much more than that,” said Brian Chou, O.D., an optometrist in San Diego. “Beyond identifying common vision problems—which can drastically impact employee productivity—comprehensive eye exams can identify serious eye diseases and other health issues that present-day online eye exams and vision tests cannot. There is an urgent need to educate employers and employees about what comprehensive eye exams can do, and why they are so important.”

The Transitions Optical study also identified an education gap between older and younger employees. Millennials and Gen Z employees, for example, are significantly more likely to say they understand the concept of online tests—with four in 10 saying they are familiar, compared to just 28 percent of Gen X employees and 21 percent of Baby Boomers. However, the same two groups more likely to say they understand online vision tests are also the most likely to incorrectly believe that they are a suitable replacement for in-office eye exams—54 percent of those in Gen Z and 50 percent of Millennials, compared to 37 percent of those belonging to Gen X and just 26 percent of Boomers.

 “This is unfortunate and must be addressed through proper education that starts with vision plans and benefits brokers, and trickles down to employers and employees,” said Drew Smith, director, North America channels, Transitions Optical. “While there is some potential for online vision tests to serve as an entry point to comprehensive eye exams, it is vital that the term ‘entry point’ is stressed so that employees aren’t missing out on the comprehensive vision care that they need and deserve.”

According to the survey, an alarming one in five employees currently enrolled in a vision plan is unlikely to use his or her benefits to get a comprehensive eye exam within the next year—even though annual exams are covered by most vision plans.

“This is a gap that needs to be filled,” added Smith. “It’s important to emphasize that while online eye tests may be convenient, they are not a substitute for comprehensive, dilated eye exams with an eyecare professional.”



 Transitions Healthy Sight Working for You is a public education initiative established by Transitions Optical, Inc. to raise awareness of the value of quality vision benefits. Reaching employers, benefits brokers and employees, the program outreach focuses on ways that comprehensive vision care and the right eyewear options can help to manage health care costs and increase productivity.

[i] Online survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of Transitions Optical, Inc. in December 2017 among 1,300 nationally representative U.S. adults, ages 18+, employed full- or part-time, whose employers offer vision benefits. For the purposes of this survey, Generation Z adults are defined as ages 18-19, Millennials (Gen Y) as 20-36, Gen X as 37-52, and Boomers as 53-71.

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