Optometric Management Tip # 98 - Wednesday, December 03, 2003 The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act
By now we've all heard about the new federal contact lens law that should go into effect in the very near future. The exact details on how to implement this law are still to be determined by the Federal Trade Commission, but we know enough about it to begin to plan for changes that this may bring to our practices. Read on for a tip on how to comply with the new law - with little impact on office efficiency or lens sales. In fact, there may actually be some good things that come of this law.
Some of our colleagues are worried that:
patients won't receive proper professional eye care
patients will stockpile lenses
incorrect lenses will be dispensed
the practice will lose contact lens replacement business
the practice may have trouble obtaining trial lenses
the regulatory requirements will take more time and require more paperwork
While some of these points may be true in a small percentage of cases, we've been releasing contact lens prescriptions for a long time and I see no reason that life will change much after this act takes effect. I don't see any reason for optometrists to be overly concerned with this new law. Most of us agree that patients have a right to the CL Rx, after the fitting is completed. For the few practices that tried to withhold contact lens Rxs in the past, they may find that they build better patient relations and retain more patients for professional services when they start releasing. More benefits will come from this law as contact lens resellers will have to actually obtain and verify prescriptions, and some level of enforcement of this will occur. We all know that this has not always been the case. We may even see some patients more regularly since they will need a renewal of the Rx after it expires.
CL Rx release
It seems to me that the biggest impact the new law will have on day-to-day operations will be releasing the CL Rx to every patient who is fit or refit, even if they don't ask for it. This change need not be very time consuming - and need not drive patients to buy contact lenses elsewhere. Here's how I'm going to comply with the CL Rx release. I made a change on our office superbill to include a pre-printed place in one corner to write the spectacle and/or contact lens Rx. I kept this Rx box small and simple and I included space for two Rxs, so it could be used for any type of contact lens or spectacle, or both. I placed two blank lines under each Rx for whatever additional information is needed, such as add power or lens brand. The Rx box on the superbill looks like this:
This is efficient because much of the required information is already on the superbill, such as date, doctor's name, patient's name, etc. Because we use scribing technicians in my practice, I will delegate the entire matter of writing out the Rxs. A doctor's signature is not necessary. Offices using electronic medical record software may have a provision to print the Rx on a walkout statement. If a lens design is too complicated for this simple form, or if special attention is needed, I can always write the parameters on our standard Rx blank, but the superbill form should handle 90% of the prescriptions.
Rx confirmation by fax
It does seem that having to verify faxed Rx confirmation notices could become a time-consuming administrative burden. And it doesn't make much sense to me as to why I should have to verify the Rx when I've given each patient a written copy. It seems to me that the patient should be required to send the written copy to the reseller; just like written drug Rxs are required by mail order pharmacies (except for authorized refills). But regardless, the confirmation act will only be a large burden if a large percentage of your patients actually seek their replacement lenses elsewhere. If that number is small, the number of faxed confirmations will be small.
So how do you keep patients buying contact lenses from your office? I've always said that strategies aimed at making patients buy from you never work... they have to WANT to buy from you. It's up to you to figure out how to get them to want to buy from you, but these decisions are usually based on price, convenience and confidence in the seller. We should be able to compete very effectively on all these points.