The current contact lens prescription verification process continues to draw fire from optometrists and their advocates, but a new bill working its way through Congress could tighten robocall requirements and, in turn, empower patients while restoring commonsense health and safety protections, its advocates say.
Introduced May 19 in the US House of Representatives, H.R. 3353, the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act, would prohibit prescription verification through automated robocalls and establish a paper trail by requiring online sellers to use direct communication (email, live phone calls or fax) to confirm prescription accuracy. The AOA-backed bill would also require online sellers to offer a HIPAA-compliant method for allowing patients to upload an electronic copy of their prescription, thereby deprioritizing the use of verification robocalls.
Optometrist Jeffrey Sonsino argues that it is extremely important for patients that this legislation passes. “As optometrists, we are the only defense patients have against contact lens reseller corporations that place the eye health and vision needs of patients in serious jeopardy in their quest for profit. These corporations appear to the consumer to be legitimate because of their marketing,” Dr. Sonsino says. However, these entities choose to actively discourage legitimate eye care by telling patients to “skip the trip” and instead steering them to unproven online vision tests that skirt prescription requirements, he adds.
“When patients resist the marketing and receive a legitimate prescription from a qualified optometrist, the optometrist is then hounded by incessant robo-calls, affecting our ability to properly assess the validity of those prescriptions,” Dr. Sonsino explains. “Hopefully, legislators will see through the misguided but well-funded lobbying efforts of profit-motivated corporations.”
Optometrist Brian Chou echoes Dr. Sonsino in his belief that this legislation is sound judgement and long overdue. “Just like with medication, patients deserve to get medical devices and contact lenses prescribed by their doctor—not an unauthorized substitute by an online retailer,” Dr. Chou says. “Congress has the opportunity to repair an inadequate system flawed by exploitive robocalls and substandard verification. As a doctor, I need my patients to get exactly what I prescribe. This legislation is a right step in restoring the integrity of prescription fulfillment.”
H.R. 3353 was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill was previously introduced in late 2020 and is backed by the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety.
Contact lens prescription verification failings targeted by new legislation. American Optometric Association. www.aoa.org/news/advocacy/federal-advocacy/contact-lens-prescription-verification-failings-targeted-by-new-legislation?sso=y. May 20, 2021. Accessed May 21, 2021.