First, I want to thank those of you who attended our last FOA RBD meeting in Orlando. It was a bittersweet event for me as it is the last RBD meeting that I will attend as a member of the FOA Board! It has been my privilege to serve on this Board and I can’t thank my teammates enough for working with me for the betterment of our patients in Florida. I have assembled a potpourri of interesting legislative issues and informative news regarding Florida optometry; past, present and even some future predictions:
1-800-CONTACTS and Opternative have joined forces and continue to work together both in the legislative arena and with their online presence to circumvent the doctor-patient relationship. For example:
“The SC Legislature passed the Eye Care Consumer Protection Bill (a bill prohibiting telemedicine-on-line refraction). The fundamental intention of this bill is to protect the well being and health of the citizens of South Carolina. This Bill, which SCOPA and the AOA still stand firmly behind is now being threatened by a lawsuit filed by Opternative. The SCOPA Board of Directors has made the decision to intervene in the lawsuit and we plan on doing everything that we can to ensure that this law is not overturned.”
The start-up company Simple Contacts, which offers an app-based eye test and refill service for contact lens wearers, has raised $2 million in seed funding that it will use to fund further development, an executive of the company confirmed to VMail this week. The iOS-based app (and Android version in development) directs consumers through a vision test that they complete while wearing their contacts. Next, they input their current prescription and brand information. The results are reviewed within a day by an ophthalmologist licensed in the consumer’s state, who verifies the results and prescription and directs the reorder. The exam is priced at $10.
In March 2016 Essilor bought the UK online contacts retailer Vision Direct UK, adding to their other online eyewear subsidiaries such as Coastal.com, My Online Optical, Frames Direct, and Eye Buy Direct. In 2017, Essilor and Luxottica have now announced their intent to merge their companies into a newly formed partnership later this year.
Tele-eye examinations and online eye wear companies continue to grow and now target insurers. For example, Superior Vision Plan is now using an online option for its members to buy their “covered” contact lenses online through ContactsDirect.
Speaking of online eye wear; here are the results of a UK Online Eyeglass Patient Satisfaction Study –
“Abstract/ Purpose: To compare spectacles bought online with spectacles from optometry practices. Methods: Thirty-three participants consisting of single vision spectacle wearers with either a low (N = 12, mean age 34 ± 14 years) or high prescription (N = 11, mean age 28 ± 9 years) and 10 presbyopic participants (mean age 59 ± 4 years) wearing progressive addition lenses (PALs) purchased 154 pairs of spectacles online and 154 from UK optometry practices. The spectacles were compared via participant-reported preference, acceptability, and safety; the assessment of lens, frame, and fit quality; and the accuracy of the lens prescriptions to international standard ISO 21987:2009.
“Results: Participants preferred the practice spectacles more than online and practice PALs were particularly preferred. Of those deemed unacceptable and unsafe, significantly more were bought online. Conclusions: Participants preferred spectacles from optometry practice rather than those bought online, despite lens quality and prescription accuracy being similar. A greater number of online spectacles were deemed unsafe or unacceptable because of poor spectacle frame fit, poor cosmetic appearance, and inaccurate optical centration. This seems particularly pertinent to PAL lenses, which are known to increase falls risk."
The future of medical marijuana and its use by physicians is currently being decided in the Florida Legislature.
The FTC may soon require physicians providing contact lens exams to make their patients sign a document attesting to the release and receipt of their contact lens prescription. This form would have to be maintained for three years as proof of the provider’s compliance with the proposed rule. The AOA and many state organizations have requested providers to supply feedback to the FTC regarding this initiative.
And now on with the future…
Per multiple sources, optometry as a profession will continue to thrive despite many outside influences and retail pressures including the “commoditization” of eyewear. In fact, some argue that our profession is poised to have “its greatest decade ever.” Other sources, including many of our competitors, believe our downfall is on the horizon. So, with such a broad forecast to our future, where does the highest probability for our success truly reside – in my opinion it rests in our movement toward unification and diversification.
Unification should be easy, but it is not. Why? Because too much complacency and apathy exist within our peer network. Should our profession fail at this point, it will be due to the complacency and apathy within our own rank and file, and not due to competition or a single competitor or adversary.
Diversification is the key to outperforming, outshining and outlasting any outside force that attempts to prey upon our profession or the patients we serve. Here are some interesting statistics and quotes from 941CEO magazine, “Businesses with diversity are 45% likelier to report growth in market share” and the philosophy of “We are Not the Other” summarizes a winning strategy for any CEO.
So it would appear that the formula for success is quite simple. Join together through FOA/ODEYEPAC and diversify the products and services we offer to our patients. Who knows, maybe that spells our best recipe for success in the legislated profession we all love known as Florida optometry.
In any event, I hope and I believe the best is yet to come since we make our own luck by staying involved. Thanks again for a great time serving FOA over the past 10 years—it has been a blast!!!
Dr. Kenneth W. Lawson
FOA Chairman of the Board / FOA Legislative Chair