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As we've talked about so many times, for first-time online eyeglasses purchasers, getting the PD has been the highest (and certainly most annoying) hurdle to clear. The forums are lousy with stories of optometrists holding the values hostage.

I got an email from Cathy yesterday that made my eyes light up. There is a sea change taking place and (I can't believe I'm saying this) insurance companies may be behind it.

Cathy got an email from HealthPartners and here it is:

The Consumer Watchdog section of this Sunday's Pioneer Press is scheduled to include an interview with Dan Nelson, M.D., an ophthalmologist and associate medical director for specialty care for the HealthPartners Medical Group. Dr. Nelson was interviewed in response to a patient complaint about a HealthPartners eye clinic not providing a pupillary distance measurement as part of the patient’s eye exam. The patient wanted the measurement in order to purchase eyeglasses on the Internet. In the interview, Dr. Nelson emphasized:

Traditionally, pupillary distance is not part of the eye exam but it is a measurement taken by opticians when you purchase eyeglasses.

With the recent growth of low-cost Internet-based prescription eyeglass retailers, more patients will likely be seeking this measurement.

HealthPartners has changed its policy to provide the pupillary distance measurement to patients who request it because we want patients to have an accurate measurement. Some Web sites suggest that customers can do it themselves using a ruler.

HealthPartners will be working on incorporating the pupillary distance measurement into the eye exam to accommodate patients who wish to purchase eyeglasses on the Internet.

Patients with strong or complicated prescriptions should avoid purchasing eyeglasses on the Internet because there are a variety of measurements, in addition to pupillary distance, that are important in order to enjoy optimal vision from their eyeglasses.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Cathy! I expect many other insurance companies will follow suit on this. In fact, it'd be a great idea for you to force the issue with yours!

Good luck!

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At April 11, 2009 at 8:10 PM Lynne Lepley said...

I went to my doctor yesterday to get my glasses repaired--and I asked for my prescription while I was there.

I got everything but the PD. The technician told me that they had been told that it was illegal to give out the PD--some HIPPA law or state law, she thought. (I'm in North Carolina).

I personally think this is underhanded! I think it should be illegal that they don't provide this information to their patients if they ask for it.

Since I don't have insurance, how can I get my PD? Any suggestions?

At April 12, 2009 at 5:03 PM Josh said...


I love in North Carolina (Raleigh in fact) and I had quite the opposite reaction from my doctor. I asked for the PD and she kinda chuckled and asked if I was getting glasses online. I said yes and she measured it for me.

I ended up going back a few months later to check the pressure in my eyes (unrelated to the glasses, it was a health concern I wanted checked) and she asked about my glasses. I told her I was very happy with my purchase and she asked to measure them to double check the quality. She was very impressed with how accurate they were. There is no law in North Carolina that prevents them from giving you your PD.

At April 12, 2009 at 5:57 PM said...

I would just pop into another optical store and ask them, they may charge you a few dollars for it, but there should be someone willing to give it to you. It's unfortunate that your doctor wouldn't give you the requested information. Maybe it's time to find another more accommodating doctor. Good luck!

At April 12, 2009 at 8:26 PM Anonymous said...

Your PD is nothing but the distance from the center of one pupil to the other, measured in millimeters. Have your spouse, friend, whatever, hold a ruler up and get it. Little head will be in the high fifties, huge head will be in the low seventies, odds are good most will be in the low to mid-sixties. Furthermore, with most prescriptions, perfect accuracy does not matter, so don't spend your spare hours sweating it.

The flip side of this whole discussion, if you aren't buying glasses from a business, why should they spend any time helping you out?

At April 12, 2009 at 11:02 PM Paul said...

It's probably harder to get your PD from an optometrist connected with an eyewear store. Some states don't allow this connection; opticians and optometrists are separate businesses in those states.

At April 12, 2009 at 11:59 PM Chuck Knight said...

HIPPA is a wonderful excuse, but it doesn't make any sense.

You see, HIPPA is a set of rules concerning permission (or lack, thereof) to discuss your medical information with people who aren't you...your children/parents, other doctors, etc.

But, since most people don't understand this, it's being used as a convenient excuse.

Information is the cure for "doctors" such as these. (What an offensive thing to have to say) They need to wake up and realize that they are angering, and alienating their patients!

At April 14, 2009 at 9:51 AM Glasses Dude said...

This is great news. It really gives the customer/patient the freedom of choice they deserve and the ability to shop around for the best deal.

The high street opticians may not like the fact that they are slowing losing their monopoly on the market but things change and if they want to keep up, they'll simply have to start treating their customers fairly.

At April 30, 2009 at 3:35 PM Anonymous said...

Group Health in Tacoma, WA has the PD available, but it'll cost ya. They wanted $20, and this was after I had already purchased a pair of glasses. Grr.

At July 8, 2009 at 5:20 PM Anonymous said...

In NM eye doctors are required to give you your PD on your prescription. My former doctor did not do it. My new doctor follows the law. I've heard the law might be changing so that they are not required to provide it.


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