Peaking Into the Crystal Ball
How will healthcare reform affect the future of contact lens care?
JASON R. MILLER, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O.
Like many of us, you may be considering how you should position yourself and your practice for future changes in the healthcare environment.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not going away, and many of us have concerns about threats to the way we currently practice optometry, such as reimbursement rates and network panels for provider types.
But how has healthcare reform influenced contact lens care, and where will contact lenses fit into the future healthcare format? Here, I discuss the short-term impact and how we may be affected in the long-term.
As far as the ACA changing how we prescribe and use contact lenses, there has not been a noticeable impact or signs of change in the near future.
One potential short-term impact is the possibility that the ACA will encourage online purchases, including contact lenses, but online retailers’ potential threat to our sales is nothing new.
Many more possibilities exist for the ACA to affect contact lens growth in the long-term rather than the short-term, but these ideas are hypothetical in nature.
As the ACA moves many practices toward the medical model and chronic disease management, certain events could actually improve the use of contact lenses on a regular basis.
For example, the ACA is looking at a variety of ways to further the coordination of care and the outcomes of many chronic diseases where a vast majority of healthcare dollars are spent. If contact lenses receive approval to accurately measure blood glucose in a diabetic patient or the diurnal pressure of a glaucoma patient, this could drive the contact lens market forward.
Additionally, the use of contact lenses for myopia control may also provide a boost in the market if they prove to be a viable option for controlling the growing number of myopic patients.
Between modified soft contact lenses, multifocal designs, enhanced orthokeratology designs, tinted lenses and environmental modifications, this group of treatments could develop into a strong growth market.
The diagnosis and treatment of chronic medical care has the capacity to drive more patients into our practices. Utilizing contact lenses in these capacities may even develop new contact lens patients.
Stay the course
Like it or not, the ACA will affect the delivery of medical care in this country, and optometry will most likely have to change in a variety of areas. However, the ACA does not seem to have much effect on contact lens sales currently.
Regardless of the ACA’s impact, maintaining our contact lens wearers, developing new wearers and preventing dropouts must be a focus in both the short-term and in the long-term. OM
*Special thanks to Joe Barr, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O., for his assistance with this article.
DR. MILLER IS A PARTNER IN A PRIVATE PRACTICE IN POWELL, OHIO, AND IS AN ADJUNCT FACULTY MEMBER FOR THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY. E-MAIL HIM AT MILLEREYEDOC@ME.COM, OR SEND COMMENTS TO OPTOMETRICMANAGEMENT@GMAIL.COM.