CVS Pharmacy recently announced its plans to move into online optical sales with the launch of QuickRenew, a prescription renewal platform that is part of Premium Vision, one of 1-800-Contacts’ portfolio companies.

This telehealth technology, currently available on the CVS Optical website, allows patients to renew their prescription with an independent ophthalmologist and order contact lenses to be shipped to their home, according to a company press release.1

Another Player in Online Glasses Sales

In addition to QuickRenew, CVS Optical has also launched an online glasses site that offers a variety of “trendy and classic styles” starting at $79, and a single-vision prescription comes at no extra cost. Each pair of glasses includes premium polycarbonate lenses that provide UV and scratch protection, and lenses can be upgraded to include blue light filtering to reduce eye strain and fatigue from digital devices.

“In terms of glasses, the public has indicated a desire for in-person service rather than mail order lenses,” Dr. Sonsino says. “Just look at the number of brick and mortar stores that have popped up all over the country by once-online glasses provider Warby Parker.” 

Like it or not, this announcement continues a trend of normalizing remote contact lens prescription renewal, says Brian Chou, OD, of San Diego. “The tacit suggestion to the consumer is that traditional contact lens services are not needed, unless for de novo prescriptions. The slippery slope ends when consumers purchase disposable soft lenses without a prescription, even if de facto.”

 Online companies continue promoting this practice, even if it’s not optimal for the wearers and diminishes the strength of the doctor-patient relationship, he adds. “COVID-19 is a dream come true for businesses inhabiting the virtual realm.”

In a press release, CVS said the company continues to adapt and evolve its digital offerings in response to the pandemic. “This addition to our optical site gives customers a new way to fulfill an important health care need safely and confidently from the comfort of their homes,” Michele Driscoll, a vice president with CVS Health, said in the release. “This is especially important at a time when customers are trying to limit their interactions or are finding it difficult to schedule time with an optometrist. Digital screening takes less than 15-20 minutes, and information is reviewed by a licensed independent ophthalmologist.”

The QuickRenew online prescription renewal service is currently available in 32 states, where permitted. To participate, patients must be between the ages of 18 and 55, were previously fitted with contact lenses, underwent a full eye exam within the last four years and have a healthy eye history.

In a statement, the American Optometric Association (AOA) called on CVS "to acknowledge that this offering will lower the overall level of eye health care received by the public and that this test places them in the ranks of questionable vision tests apps that have and should continue to be investigated by the FDA." The AOA says online renewal could give patients the false impression that their eyes have been thoroughly examined.

“It is unfortunate that CVS Health, a company seemingly concerned with the public’s health and well-being, has chosen to implement an online vision test that has neither been properly evaluated nor approved by the FDA,” says Jeffrey Sonsino, OD, of Nashville. “Ultimately, the public will decide whether they wish to entrust their ocular health to a skilled professional with the ability to examine the eyes and find nuanced signs leading to blinding eye disease, or a singular test with little to no diagnostic capability, expressly designed to work around rules enacted to protect the public.”

Dr. Sonsino adds, “Telehealth works great for warts and psychiatry, but the technology is nowhere close to where it is rational for eyecare. Large companies concerned with only profit often push these untested technologies in order to be the first to market. For my family’s eyes... no thanks.”

CVS Pharmacy launches QuickRenew, an at-home contact lens prescription renewal tool. AP News. October 27, 2020. Accessed October 28, 2020.