In the latest example of mobile health apps battling the traditional healthcare industry, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a law this week banning the practice of prescriptions based on online-only eye exams. Specifically, the law prohibits prescriptions for “contact lenses or spectacles” without an eye examination that includes an “in-person assessment.” 

The law does not outlaw all eye exams via telemedicine, as it specifically exempts from its prohibition telemedicine assessments at a physician’s office, optometrist’s office, hospital, or “hospital health system setting.” However, direct-to-patient mobile apps offering eye exams appear to fall squarely within the law’s ban, which may be punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. 

Reports have linked the legislation to the rise of Internet-based eye exam services like Opternative, which allow patients to conduct eye tests from any location using their smartphones and computers. Direct-to-patient healthcare apps have faced resistance from doctors' and hospital lobbies, in part due to concerns over quality, and have earned the attention of legislatures and licensing agencies

Georgia’s new law also limits contacts and spectacle prescriptions to physicians and licensed optometrists. 

 

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