By Jonathan Winnegrad, ABO-AC, NCLE-AC

Today I am going to tackle a taboo eye care subject with an unpopular opinion. I would like to try and present a compelling case that we should be giving patients their pupillary distance even when they are not purchasing eyeglasses from us. Please take a minute to hear me out before throwing pupilometers at me. After much thought and wrestling, I have come to this unpopular (amongst opticians) conclusion. Before I start, I would like to throw out that I have spent multiple terms on my home state’s dispensing optician board, have authored books on eye care, have my advanced certifications and have spent my entire almost two-decade career in eye care. I say this not to brag but to illustrate that I deserve a seat at the table where this conversation is being had.

The most common objection that I hear is that opticians do not want to be held legally liable if the patient gets into an accident driving while wearing eyeglasses ordered online with the pupillary distance that they furnished. This patient shaming will make the solicitor of a PD feel like they were trying to purchase Oxycodone with a forged prescription. For starters, there is no legal precedent for this. A court would have to be out of its mind to deem that somebody had an accident due to the measurements you provided for the layout of their eyeglasses. Your pupillary distance would have to be off TREMENDOUSLY to induce enough prism to cause somebody to have an accident. The glasses wearer would also need to be dumb enough to drive in glasses that were inducing that much of a prismatic effect. The reality is that there is no legal precedent and there would be literally dozens of more important factors than the PD that you provided. I believe that supplying PD measurements to those not getting eyeglasses from you gives you professional credibility. Would you rather patients think a PD is so unimportant and easy to measure that they have their mom, husband, brother etc. take it? Be honored that they recognize that they have not had the training and education necessary to take this vital step.

Providing a PD to a patient promotes a greater level of personal integrity to you, the practitioner. Do you love being an optician because it allows you to help people to see their best? The logical conclusion of that statement would be that you would want to provide these vital measurements for people regardless of whether they are purchasing their eyewear from you.

I can understand the legitimate fear that everybody ordering their eyeglasses online would put you out of work. That is true. The reality is, however, that not everyone will go online. You being perceived as a jerk, unwilling to help, will not make the lightbulb go off and convince people to get glasses from you. This will just ramp up the demand for greater technology to aid people ordering online and avoid you. View it as an opportunity to show patients what they are missing when they go online. As patients await their PD, may they see you providing world class education, fitting, and fashion advice to your patients. Even if they go online this time, when they have a poor experience (they likely will) they will be apt to remember the knowledgeable kindly optician who helped them.

View this as an opportunity to truly show the patient wanting their PD the value of what you do and why your eyeglasses are more expensive. People can go to McDonalds if they want an order taker. Be the professional and show them why they should use you.