Recently, I was doing some online research related to a project for a client, and stumbled across a website from the UK. The information this website posted was absolutely terrifying, and made me wonder what else is out there, for public viewing, and how little most of us know about this ‘mis’ information.
The site I found is www.contactswithoutaprescription.com. It lists links to other sites that sell contact lenses without an Rx as well. On their front page, in plain black and white, was the following: Is it perfectly legal to order contacts on-line without a prescription if you live in the United States? It is not legal for a US based company to sell and ship contacts to a US address without a prescription. That means a possible alternative source to buy contacts, like many prescription drugs, could be outside of the United States…..The UK (United Kingdom) for example has different trust levels with consumers and different governmental laws. They evidently trust that people have been to the eye doctor at some point in the past and know their base curve and left and right eye powers and wouldn’t spend good money on contact lenses that don’t fit or don’t correct their vision properly.
Umm…WHAT???? So, not only will these sites allow you to order your contact lenses without a prescription, I suppose guessing at the base curves and powers, they also insinuate that we as ECP’s don’t trust our patients as much in the United States. Nothing about health care issues, about the possible adverse effects and ramifications of wearing lenses you haven’t been fit for. Nowhere did I find a link or information about corneal abrasions, corneal scarring, infections, swelling, neovascular growth or potentially loss of vision.
This is terrifying, and indicative of the real harm the internet can inflict on unsuspecting consumers. An old adage says something about a little bit of knowledge being a terrifying thing, and this proves it true. It’s why education, both at initial visit as well as follow up and future examinations, is so paramount to the continued eye health of our patients. They are being bombarded with this type of spiel anytime they go online.
And now that it has been revealed that Google is ‘scroogling’ people, this issue cannot be ignored any longer. In essence, when you use google to find something, companies pay google to become part of the ‘featured listings’, and other companies, that haven’t paid, don’t even show up. So, imagine sites like the one I found paying google to push them up in the search. Your patient sees this, clicks it, and proceeds to buy contacts. They are the wrong base curve, leading to edema and an abrasion. The patient shows up in your office for an emergent situation. Now, your dilemma. Do you see this patient, treat them? Because once you do you are assuming their care, and if they continue to use the poorly fitting contacts after you treat their eye health issue, you are now potentially liable as well.
It’s becoming a very scary, litigious world we live in. The only way we can fight this is through communication. And that communication needs to be consistent and constant.
Nikki DiBacco, ABO/NCLE, is an educator, writer and owner of DnD Consulting&Design. She is also co-founder of The Visionaries Group. Learn more at www.visionariesgroup.com