Optometry Podcast: Hot Topics with Dr. Chris Lievens

This week is all about the most controversial topics in eyecare from a variety of perspectives! We’re joined by Dr. Chris Lievens, Chief of Internal Clinics at the Southern College of Optometry. On the docket: the impact of mergers and acquisitions on managed vision care, the ongoing legislative action around the FTC Contact Lens Rule, and new proposed optometry schools.

  1. The FTC Rule: Went into effect Friday 10/16. States doctors must keep signed documentation from every patient prescribed contact lenses that they have been given a finalized copy of their contact lens for 3 years. Failure to comply results in fines of $42,530 per violation
    • UPDATE: AOA backed legislation called “The Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act S. 4613” to overturn this new rule faced a delay in the US Senate as of Wed 11/18. The proposal overturns the new paperwork requirement and would ban robocalls by mass retailers to doctor’s offices for Rx verification. The bill needs further support to get the bill on the agenda before Congress adjourns in December. 
    • YOU CAN HELP! Text FTC: Fix to 855.465.5124 to send an urgent message to your senators asking them to cosponsor this bill!
  2. New Optometry School proposed in Utah: On October 12 the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions announced an intent to develop a new College of Optometry on the RMUoHP campus with Dr. Adam Hickenbotham, OD, MPH, PhD, selected as the Founding Dean. The plan is to open for student enrollment in 2023.
    • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for optometrists will grow an estimated 30 percent during the next ten years.
    • ARE THERE ENOUGH SCHOOLS AND ENOUGH STUDENTS? Currently 23 schools of optometry in the USA. In 2019 there were 2,472 individual students who applied to all 23 schools. The amount of applicants per available seats is roughly 1.5:1. The number of applicants in 2019 represented a 2% decline in applicants from the previous year and is the lowest number in the past 6 years. 
  3. VSP Formulary changes: VSP’s change to it’s formulary plan is slated to begin Jan 1st (was originally starting in September, but was delayed due to COVID fallout).
    • They will be providing higher reimbursement to labs and ECPs for dispensing and selling their “preferred” materials and cutting “non-preferred brand” reimbursement by roughly 50%.  If doctors choose to prescribe or sell Essilor owned materials, they will do so at this significantly lower reimbursement rate and CAN NOT bill the patient for any differences. Let’s talk about what doctors will have to do? Will patients be able to tell the difference if doctors prescribe generic photochromic lenses versus “Transitions” lenses for example?  According to stats from Transitions, 86% of people wearing Transitions brand lenses are satisfied, versus only 63% of patients who don’t know what brand they are wearing.
    • All patients need is the phone in their hands to think they are experts about brands and lens technology! Forcing doctors into small silos of available products makes it extremely difficult for small practices to differentiate themselves from massive commercial retailers. 
  4. Telehealth in Eyecare: When offices shut down during COVID closures in the spring of 2020, there was a sudden move to telemedicine in optometry out of necessity. As offices return to in person care, what does the long term of telemedicine look like? Let’s talk about our own experiences. Pros and Cons. The technology available right now:
    • DigitalOptometetrics is an optical software company with doctors evaluating patients remotely with a live video conference. 
    • ESG 1200 Eye Screening Globe by GlobeCheck is a kiosk with autorefraction, IOP, anterior segment and fundus photos, corneal topography, and OCT. Currently, these are only available inside eyecare provider offices, but the company is selling and leasing units to hospitals, retail chains, airports, and malls.  

Drs. Glover & Lyerlyhttps://www.defocusmedia.com
Defocus Media is run by two successful Millennial optometrists and social media entrepreneurs, Dr. Jennifer Lyerly and Dr. Darryl Glover. They have proven track records of successfully engaging online readers and followers. They reside and practice in North Carolina.

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