Telemedicine has the potential to bring health care access to new heights, but amendments to the House and Senate telemedicine packages Thursday would be a regression.
HB 23 has already cleared the House and is ready for a vote in the Senate. The Senate’s telehealth package, SB 1526, is also on ready for a floor vote.
With both bills in the same chamber, Clearwater Republican Sen. Ed Hooper filed amendments to each that would block Floridians from ordering prescription contact lenses and glasses online unless they get “a contemporaneous eye health examination.”
Essentially, customers can still pick up their specs online but they won’t be able to skip a trip to the optometrist.
That’s a major change from the current rules, and according to 1-800-Contacts lobbyist Rhett O’Doski, there’s little reason for it.
“Right now, if you’ve had a prescription for glasses or contacts in the last four years, you can go online and take a test for renewals,” he said, adding that the dilemma is another chapter in the feud between ophthalmologists and optometrists.
Even though optometrists aren’t cut out of the current system — they must perform the in-person eye exam — they want more customers coming through their doors. A comprehensive eye exam sets patients back about $185 dollars in the office. Online, the high-end is about $40.
Getting the in-person treatment isn’t a necessary step for most patients ages 18 to 55, and the renewal process isn’t slighting more complex patients out of proper eye care as online vision testing companies have processes in place, such as medical history exams, to flag patients for referral to a local optometrist if needed.
That’s the case for about 30 percent of people who start the online refill process.
The amendments are also being opposed by Americans for Vision Care Innovation, which sent a letter to House Speaker Jose Oliva urging him and other lawmakers to chuck the change.
“You may not be aware that online prescription renewal tests have been offered for nearly four years in Florida and across the nation,” the letter reads.
“During this time, close to one million online prescription renewal tests have been performed using online platforms and at this time we are unaware of a single adverse event, medical malpractice claim, or consumer initiated medical board complaint as a result of using these services.”
SB 1526 is on the Friday special order calendar in the Senate. The House bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
April 25, 2019 at 7:48 pm
Uh. I have been getting contacts from 1800contacts for 15 years. It’s great and convenient. This is totally ABSURD. Hope this does not happen.
April 27, 2019 at 1:21 pm
Optometrist here. The regular eye health exams for contact lens wearers are more complex then an online health history can expose. Examination by biomicroscopy is required to note subtle changes to the cornea due to extended lens wear. No online test will confirm or deny the presence of corneal neo, GPC, corneal hypoxia, corneal spk and scaring, etc. Laws requesting visits to ECP are not in place solely for increased patient flow, but to ensure we see you BEFORE you develop that cornea ulcer from a poor contact fit or bacterial growth. In the end, patient health is in their hands; but Eye Care Professionals shouldn’t be written out of the equation due to the extensive risks contacts as medical devices carry.
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