Understanding The Basics Of Digital Refraction Systems

by | Tuesday, August 04, 2015 | 0 comment(s)

Though some eye care clinicians, ophthalmologists, and optometrists continue to use manual refractors, there are numerous reasons why professionals should consider switching to more advanced devices for refraction. In the age of information that we live in today, it's vital to be able to record and share information, and a computerized refraction system offers increased efficiency and accuracy, and offers better integration with EMR software.

Refractive errors are the most common reason people seek out optometrist or ophthalmologist assistance. These problems in our vision are optical imperfections that reduce the eye's ability to focus light - leading to blurred vision. The leading refractive errors are:

  • Farsightedness
  • Nearsightedness
  • Astigmatism

Although it's possible to treat, and sometimes correct these issues - experts must find the cause of the problem to determine the appropriate following steps. This is where digital refraction systems become necessary.

The Popularity of Automation


The term "automated refraction system" describes the selection of ophthalmic devices utilized during eye exams to determine refractive errors and prescription requirements. Automated refraction delivers accuracy, speed, and repeatability, leading to a widespread replacement of previously used individual techniques.

Eye care professionals commit themselves to delivering comprehensive eye examinations for each patient, meaning that many practitioners benefit from the additional information, accuracy, and speed a digital refractor system can afford. A comprehensive eye exam includes a complete consideration of patient history and symptoms, as well as ophthalmic investigation, and evaluation of the findings. Practitioners face the challenge of completing these various and complex tasks accurately within a set time frame, and an automated refractor helps to speed up the process.

What's more, academic study requires the use of unbiased refractive data, and the information delivered by some digital refractors can be more repeatable than retinoscopy.

The Components of Digital Refraction Systems

The following are some standard components of an automated, or digital refractor system:

  • Motor-driven and electronic phoropter which places lenses in front of the patient's eyes
  • Autolensmeter that measures the patient's current contact lenses or glasses
  • Autorefractor that measures the objective refractive error of the patient
  • Eye chart to measure visual acuity throughout the test
  • Software or hardware-driven controller changing the lenses in the phoroptor for subjective testing.

The Evolution And Benefit Of Digital Refractors


When first introduced to the United States in the 1970s, the digital refractor required operators with particular sets of skills, and delivered difficult-to-interpret readings. As the technology surrounding digital refracting improved and evolved, automated systems became easier to use. As more professionals became capable of understanding the digital system, a new movement of refractive capabilities became available.

Using a digital refractor is easy and quick compared to the time-consuming practices of baseline refraction and retinoscopy. Although reading results requires professional interpretation, digital refractors speed-up the data-gathering process by supplying details to the electronic medical record of the patient, and some models accept subjective adjustments - eliminating the time wasted in walking patients to manual phoropters. The technology, as it is today, is enabling doctors to see more patients over the course of a day, improving the efficiency of clinics and offices across the U.S. What's more, the automated delivery system reduces the possibility of human error in transcription, providing more accurate results.

Are you already using an automated or digital refractor system in your office? If so, do you find it an improvement over older, more traditional methods? 

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