I guess you could say this is a follow-up to my posts from 2008/2009 where I went through my Lenscrafters eye exam including a detailed cost breakdown for the exam and a description of the process.
I figured I should do an update because when I went for my eye exam at Lenscrafters in January 2017, they had a "new" eye exam process that they call Clarifye. I've always had pretty good luck going to Lenscrafters for my eye exams. I have EyeMed insurance, so the discount gets automatically applied there. Also, I find that I can typically get an appointment the same day, including weekends. When I went to get an eye exam through a local private optometrist, I had to make the appointment a few weeks in advance. With my Costco eye exams, I usually have to make an appointment about one week in advance. I found the equipment Costco uses to be the most basic, with the Lenscrafters Clarifye maybe being a little more advanced than what the private optometrist had. I'll get into the details as I go through the process.
I had the exam on a Saturday in early January 2017. I was able to call the local Lenscafters and get an appointment about 2 hours later. I had to wait about 20 minutes beyond my scheduled time, which I remember being similar the other times I went to Lenscrafters. They first had me do the basic screening with what I'm assuming is an optician. She was new and had a strong accent, seeming to have some difficulty with the few questions I asked. Fortunately, there aren't many questions that need to get asked or answered when doing the first few steps.
They didn't ask if I wanted to get peripheral fields tested like they did the first time I went in 2008. Either they no longer have a peripheral vision machine to test me, or they figured since I did it once before I didn't need to do it again. I know my insurance didn't cover it in 2008 and it cost about $10. The eye doctor did her own basic peripheral vision test, which they all do anyway.
The tests they did initially started with the machine like they have when take a driver's test. She asked me to look in the machine and read the lowest line I could, with my glasses on. They had me read the lowest line with just the right eye, just the left eye, then both eyes together. She switched the machine to do the test for both near vision and far vision.
The optician then took my glasses and put them into a machine with the Clarifye name on it. It looked like it was showing some sort of image on her screen of the various lens strengths but I couldn't really see and she didn't answer me when I asked about it, probably because she didn't understand my question.
Next the optician (still not the optometrist) had me look in a machine with the Clarifye name on it. It also has the Zeiss name on it and it seemed very similar to the autorefractor they used at Costco. An autorefractor machine is designed to test your eyes automatically to get an estimate of your prescription. When I looked inside, the image goes in and out of focus as I stare at it. I don't have to do anything. The Costco autorefractor had a picture of a barn on a farm. The new Clarifye Lenscrafters autorefractor had an image of a balloon inside. The Clarifye autorefractor also has the name Zeiss on it. I'm fairly certain that this is one of the Zeiss i.profiler autorefractors. Interestingly, the i.profiler by Zeiss is designed to work with the Zeiss i.scription lenses. According to the Zeiss information, it appears the iProfiler does more than just autorefract. It also acts as a ocular wavefront aberrometer and ATLAS corneal topographer and keratometer. I've tried reading up on these various things and it gets VERY technical and also somewhat controversial. I was unable to find a reliable study showing that incorporating all of these factors actually makes for a better experience for the patient. There may be studies out there, but I'm a skeptic of a lot of this marketing jargon. Ultimately, the eye doctor still does the basic refraction and most optometrists seem to go with that information.
According to the Zeiss website, the i.scription technology incorporates the various findings from the i.profiler in order to make an extremely accurate lens for the specific patient. Unfortunately, it seems most people's eyes are not sensitive enough to notice the difference of the extra corrections this system builds in. Additionally, there are other factors that can easily throw off the results, such as moving your glasses slightly on your nose. Overall, it seems to be a VERY expensive piece of equipment (around $30,000) that I'm not convinced really gives a better result. But it makes for very excellent marketing. Zeiss claims that this technology leads to better contrast, better night and low light vision, and better color vision. I'm a skeptic. Also, these devices from Zeiss have been around for around 10 years. The fact that Lenscrafters is using them now is neither revolutionary nor proprietary.
After that test, they had me look in the machine that blows a puff of air into your eye. It checks the pressure in your eye and can tell if you have glaucoma. She didn't tell me the number but I didn't ask as I wasn't sure she'd understand me.
When done, she said she recommends I have optomap done to take a picture of the back of the eye and important to check for glaucoma. I said if insurance doesn't cover it, I don't want it. She said insurance doesn't cover it. I had this done during my first Lenscrafter eye exam in 2008 and at that time it was around $39. I asked and I couldn't tell whether she said $35 or $39. I personally prefer having them dilate my eyes to examine them. From what I've read, a reasonable optometrist can get a better look in a dilated pupil than the optomap - both a wider view and a clearer view. The optomap is nice in that the image is saved so they can always see if there is a difference over time, but I get a sense no one really looks at it again. Insurance pays for me to get my pupils dilated also.
I then met with the eye doctor. She first had me rest my head in the brace looking thing, resting my chin on the pad. She looked at the surface of my eye with a bright light. She then did the classic refraction part but this was a little different, likely a part of their "clarifye" system but I'm not sure. Instead of looking at the typical projection of a letter chart with lenses that she manually switched, I looked through a machine that would automatically change the lenses while showing me two images at the same time on a split screen. This way she didn't have to switch between two lenses asking me which was better. I could see both images at the same time and tell her which looked better. Basically the two images (series of letters) were in a circle with a line separating them. I would say which looked better, then the letters would move in the circle slightly and she'd ask me again which is better. I'd have to assume that the machine changed automatically, randomizing which lens was on which side of the screen, gradually changing them until I picked either side about half the time, meaning I couldn't tell any difference between the two prescriptions. At least that is how I would design the behind the scenes process.
She then put in the dilation drops and she told me about my prescription. She said that my distance prescription requirement doubled (I later saw it went from 0.75 to 1.50, but the add stayed the same at +1.50). She explained that with the distance prescription becoming stronger, the near vision would also become stronger even with the same add. She also said that my astigmatism changed. She said these two prescription changes (stronger distance prescription plus change in astigmatism) make for the two most difficult prescription changes to adjust to. It was nice to have this warning as I'm currently on day #3 of my new glasses and it is a noticeable difference.
After my pupils were dilated, she then looked inside with the light and lens they use. Nothing different there.
The total price for my eye exam came to $70. I'm guessing it was $55 for the basic eye exam plus $15 for the dilation, but they didn't separate it out that way. As it turned out, I got my eye exam 2 days earlier than my insurance would cover it for the usual amount, so instead it only covered 20% of the cost. Annoying, but that was my mistake to not check the dates more closely. Also, I found out that Lenscrafters (at least this store) offers a discount if you have a membership with AAA (triple A). I'm not sure why having a membership for the automotive club would get you a discount with Lenscrafters, but it seemed to be about a 15% discount.
So that is my most recent experience with Lenscrafters. Since my insurance wasn't ready to process new glasses either, they couldn't tell me an accurate price for glasses with my insurance. She also wouldn't tell me the "raw" price if I bought them that day. I picked out basic lenses that normally sell for around $180 there, but my insurance would cover $175 of it. By comparison, the basic lenses I get at Costco are $59. She said the progressive lenses would cost approximately another $350, but she didn't specify whether that was before insurance or after. By comparison, the high quality progressive lenses with anti-reflective coating I get from Costco cost me $129 (without insurance).
As to the accuracy of the Clarifye process, that's tough for me to say. When I first tried on my Costco glasses with the new prescription, I felt that the right eye which had the larger prescription change was blurry for far distance vision. Also, the first day I wore the glasses, I felt like something was pulling or turning my right eye slightly. I'm assuming that is the astigmatism change. I didn't notice either issue as much the second and third day, but at times I still notice it doesn't feel "normal". In spite of it feeling different, I do feel the vision is very clear when I check the blurriness. I'm assuming it will take another few days to fully adjust and I'm being patient especially given the warning from the optometrist. I think that as the prescriptions get stronger, there is more chance for adjustment issues particularly with progressive lenses which have varying prescriptions throughout the visual field.
Bottom line is that the Lenscrafters eye exams are convenient for me, similar price to other places, and likely as accurate as any other place. The eye doctor I saw was very nice and seemed knowledgeable.
I don't see any reason to buy my eyeglasses there. If I didn't get them so cheap from Costco, I would probably go to a private optometrist in the area, based on a family/friend recommendation, assuming my EyeMed insurance was taken.