Article Date: 11/1/2009


AOA Clarifies Stance on Vision Plans Through Joint Statement With VSP


The American Optometric Association (AOA) and Vision Service Plan (VSP) have released a joint statement regarding their positions on healthcare reform legislation.

Specifically, the joint statement reveals that both organizations are committed to ensuring the legislation include expanded access to eye care, continued existing coverage and same doctor use as well as non-discrimination provisions that protect patient access to optometric care. Further, both the AOA and VSP have agreed to team-up to increase support in Congress for the Harkin Provider Non-Discrimination and Ross Patient Access to Care Amendments, according to the joint statement.

The reason for the joint statement: To clear up �confusion� and �misinterpretation� regarding the AOA�s position on stand-alone vision plans, according to the organization�s president Randolf E. Brooks, O.D., who hosted a press teleconference on the topic shortly after the release.

" … At this point, we feel it's important that our members know that the AOA would never do anything to compromise existing coverage of any patients in existing vision plans. The AOA is not against stand-alone vision plans. That's not the case," he said. "We are for access, and we are for patients receiving access to care and any type of plan that the patient has access to optometric care and services. So we're not against anything at this point."

This confusion and misinterpretation stems from a joint letter both the AOA and the Academy of Ophthalmology sent to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in mid September. In the letter, which the American Optometric Society made public, both organizations expressed concern regarding her draft amendment to healthcare reform legislation that requests stand-alone dental and vision plans offer the required pediatric dental and vision services.

The letter reads:

" … In contrast to increasing the essential integration of vision and eye health services into covered services, stand-alone vision plan companies aim to turn back the clock by continuing to segment vision from eye health, and seek to impose misguided limits on the care that our patients — especially children — receive. Such plans are routinely mislabeled as complete or comprehensive when in fact they are not. … Any expansion of stand-alone vision plans through healthcare reform would result in a continuation of non-responsive action and fractured and uncoordinated care. This would include barriers to access and the increased likelihood of needless disruption of the type of health care you and other leaders in Congress are determined to see provided to children. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on another approach on this issue that would help fully realize the improved quality of care and quality of life gains that result from the coordinated delivery of comprehensive vision and eye healthcare services."

When asked what has changed in the AOA's thinking since the letter was sent, Dr. Brooks replied:

"We feel that medical plans are preferable to stand-alone plans in terms of access to patients, and we feel that increasing the integration of comprehensive vision and eyecare services into covered medical services will help eliminate unnecessary barriers to care," he said. "However, VSP and the AOA have engaged in discussion, and the discussion has pointed out that there are differences in interpretation in the proposed healthcare legislation. Nothing is etched in stone right now, and we feel that continued dialogue is important until we actually do have a bill that has passed."

As we go to press, House Democrats have presented an $894 billion Healthcare plan. Stay tuned.

O.D. Provides Insight Into H1N1 Protection


Lou Mancinelli, contributing editor

■ A specific interoffice protocol is a strong practice you can implement to protect yourself, staff and patients from the spread of the potentially lethal H1N1 influenza strain, says optometrist Tom Wilk, who practices at Mountain View Optometry in Calgary, and who recently sent out a press release on protection from the condition.

"All we can do as healthcare providers and business owners is work with what we know," he says. "We can minimize serious illness and deaths by education."

The current common understanding of the H1N1 strain is the virus spreads the same as any other flu virus: from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people who have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Also, sometimes people become infected by touching something — such as a surface or object — that has flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Thus, the best way to combat any flu in the optometric practice is to implement policies and hang signage that requires staff and reminds patients to use hand sanitizers when entering or leaving a new room and after touching surfaces that could be contaminated in the office and at home. These policies and signage should also require staff to consistently decontaminate frequently used areas and surfaces, Dr. Wilk says.

The Calgary O.D. adds that you may have to especially remind children and adolescents to use hand sanitizers because they haven't always had the life experience and developed the degree of maturity required to understand the importance of engaging in proper disinfecting practices.

The H1N1 influenza virus, as seen in the CDC Influenza Laboratory.

"As healthcare workers, we see a lot of people every day," Dr. Wilk says. "The hands are a terrible way to spread the virus. [As a result], swab the arm rests; clean all the surfaces; the headrest; the neck rest; [and] the tables and the chairs in the waiting room…"

Because the virus can be transmitted through the eyes as well, he advises you, your staff and patients wash your hands before placing and removing contact lenses. (For further information on protection from H1N1, visit

Should a patient or staff member complain of H1N1 flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough and sore throat, encourage her to stay home, Dr. Wilk says.

"We have doubled the number of sick days allowed," he says of his own practice. "If the staff feels they will not lose income for not working, they will consider staying at home to recover."

The Calgary O.D. also suggests waiving appointment cancellation fees if patients report flu-like symptoms prior to coming in, as doing so prompts sick patients concerned about the fee to stay home.

Incidentally, the CDC Web site ( suggests staying home for 24 hours after fever reduction to ensure the person who has the virus can't spread it.

"I think people are more worried about this [specific influenza strain] because it has caused several deaths," Dr. Wilk says. "We don't know how it's going to mutate and what it's going to become. If we can contain this thing, that is good. We don't want to be ground-zero for an outbreak."

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Industry Information Resource

The Center for Patient Insights, from Bausch & Lomb, is a new Web site that provides you with unbiased industry information, trends, market research and insights regarding eye care, the company says. The Center will use a variety of channels to publish timely, relevant and comprehensive data gathered from patient and consumer research commissioned by Bausch & Lomb and nationally recognized data providers, such as Health Products Research and Gallup, to enable you to make informed decisions regarding your practice and patients. Visit

New Eye Health Foundation Formed


■ The Core Planning Team of the Eye Health Summit, a recent event aimed at building consensus on a public health message, has announced the creation of a new group whose purpose is to raise the public's awareness of the importance of eye health through a yet-to-be-determined nationwide messaging campaign. The name of the group: the Healthy Eyes for Life Foundation.

Core Planning Team members met after the Summit to discuss how to use its outcomes to design a new public health message.

The Vision Council, a non-profit organization that represents the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry, hosted the Summit, which was a two-day event held this past July in Chicago.

The intention of the event: to start the process of building a consensus among eyecare professionals, insurance providers, optical manufacturers, trade associations and government and eyecare non-profit groups regarding an eye health message for the general public, a plan of implementation to deliver the message and a way to integrate support to carry the message, according to the "Eye Health Summit Preliminary Report." Incidentally, more than 100 people participated in the two-day event.

"What we realized is that for any public campaign to work, all facets of the industry must be involved in its design and support it. So, we decided to bring everyone together to decide on a common public message, rather than having the public bombarded with several messages that aren't motivating them to regularly visit an eyecare practitioner," explains Ed Greene, CEO of The Vision Council.

The Vision Council assembled the Core Planning Team, which consists of 12 members from such organizations as the American Optometric Association, to meet prior to the event to clarify the Summit's purpose, identify appropriate participants, act as spokes-people for the Summit and review event notes and feedback after the event to decide how to best move forward. The result: the Healthy Eyes for Life Foundation.

As we go to press, the Foundation is comprised of an acting chairman and an interim board of directors. At their first meeting, which was held in early October, the Foundation's interim board approved their bylaws and convened volunteer committees for development, marketing and communications, board composition and an executive management search.

In 2010, the Foundation will create visioncare messaging and hire a creative agency. In addition, it will develop a brand and partner guidelines and launch them to the vision industry. The Foundation anticipates a consumer launch sometime in 2011.

Parents Preventing Kid CL Wear?


Bob Levoy O.D., Roslyn, N.Y.

■ Although a survey of parents (564) reveals that 42% say their child dislikes wearing glasses, 41% say their child doesn't always wear them when indicated, 40% say their child sometimes feels self-conscious when wearing them, and 50% reveal their child would rather wear CLs, almost a third (31%) of survey respondents say they've never considered childhood CL wear.

The reasons: They think spectacles are easier to clean and take care of than CLs, and they're concerned about their child's ability to care for the lenses.

To change this thinking: "Educate the parent that children ages eight to twelve have been shown to be as capable as teens in adjusting to and taking care of CLs," says Susan Kovacich, O.D., associate clinical professor of the Cornea and Contact Lens Clinic at the Indiana University School of Optometry. "Further, point out the benefits of childhood CL wear, which includes improved self-esteem and better acceptance of their prescription; and the practical benefit of the patient actually wearing his prescription. If, however, the parent isn't willing to actively participate in the child's CL wear, don't offer them at this time."

Fairfield Research Inc., a Lincoln, Neb. market research firm conducted the survey among members of the Good Housekeeping Reader Advisory Panel on behalf of Acuvue Brand Contact Lenses (Vistakon). The 564 respondents reported having at least one spectacle-wearing child between the ages of eight and 17.


• Early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) patients are at increased risk for incident coronary heart disease, though not stroke, says a population-based prospective cohort study in October's Ophthalmology. The researchers arrived at this finding after adjusting for age, gender, race, blood pressure, hypertension status, fasting glucose, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, smoking and C-reactive protein.

Glaucoma patients who have damage to both hemifields, vs. a superior defect or an inferior defect alone, are at an increased risk of disease progression, according to a study in September's Archives of Ophthalmology. Thus, consider aggressive treatment for these patients vs. single-defect patients.

• The Kruppel-like factor (KLF) gene family may play a role in regulating the regenerative ability of both the optic nerve and brain neurons, says a study in October's Science. This may lead to new glaucoma and anterior ischemic optic neuropathy treatments.

Coopervision recently introduced its LensLocator, an online tool that allows you to search across the company's portfolio to identify the most appropriate contact lens choices. You can access the LensLocator at

◻ To accommodate expansion, Rhein Medical has moved its headquarters to St. Petersburg, Fla. The new contact information is Rhein Medical, 3360 Scherer Drive, Suite B, St. Petersburg, FL 33716, telephone (727) 209-2244.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers the brochure, "Eye Health and Allergies," which is supported by 1-Day Acuvue Moist brand contact lenses (Vistakon). You may request up to 50 copies of the brochure at

Carl Zeiss Vision has announced that Michael Hoffmann will assume the role of CEO of the company effective December 1, 2009. Mr. Hoffman previously held a number of key positions at Hewlett-Packard.

Notal Vision sold its Foresee PHP business to Reichert Ophthalmic Instruments. Notal Vision will fully invest its time and resources in the home-based PHP technology, which is expected to launch in 2010. Sightpath Medical will distribute the home-based PHP. The technology assists in monitoring patients for the conversion from dry to wet age-related macular degeneration.

Transitions Optical has promoted Manuel Solis to the position of multicultural marketing manager, North America. Mr. Solis will continue to expand Transitions Optical's multicultural initiatives. In other news, The Hispanic Public Relations Association has recognized Transitions Optical and its trade public relations agency, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, with the 2009 Hispanic Healthcare Campaign of The Year award.

Transitions Optical has joined forces with Shield Tech LLC, a manufacturer of motorcycle face shields and visors, to launch Shield Tech Transitions SOLFX visors for bikers. Currently, the photochromic visor is available on the Akuma Phantom II motorcycle helmet, though expansions into other helmet brands are planned.

VSP expanded the availability of its first co-branded products, VSP Reveal and Reveal Freeform progressive lenses with Optics by Carl Zeiss, to all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. The progressive lenses are available exclusively to VSP's network of private-practice doctors and can be dispensed to both VSP and non-VSP patients.

CONNECT, a non-profit organization dedicated to innovative technology and life science businesses, announced the SynergEyes Clear-Kone contact lens as a finalist for its 22nd annual Most Innovative New Product Award.

◻ The soft contact lens tinting service company Adventure In Colors was recently awarded exclusive worldwide manufacturing and distribution rights for the ZELTZER X-CHROM soft contact lens, used for treating color deficiency.

ClearVision Optical is featured in a new customer service book, "Who's Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan." The book was written by Lori Jo Vest with Marilyn Suttle and offers case studies from a wide range of companies that excel in customer care.

EyeScience announced that Greg Evans, O.D., and Patrick Dollenmayer, O.D., have been named to the company's first Scientific Advisory Board.

Wiley X announced that for the year of 2010, it will donate $2.50 from the sale of each non-polarized pair of its popular Lacey sunglasses and $3.50 from each polarized pair of the line to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

. ◻ Optometry Giving Sight has introduced an online Gift of Vision gift catalogue for those who are interested in making a donation in lieu of a holiday gift. For more information, visit

Prevent Blindness America announced that its second annual Prevent Blindness America Swing Fore Sight Golf Tournament, held in conjunction with Vision Expo West, was a success, raising close to $110,000.

◻ In other news, Prevent Blindness America recently released a summary report of a five-year cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This report, "Prevent Blindness America: Working to Advance Public Health, Vision and Eye Care in the U.S." summarizes key efforts of this public-private partnership, focusing on activities taking place between 2003 and 2008. You an find more information at the organization's website,

Teka Eyewear, SoHo New York, won the Best New Product in Vision Choice Award at Vision Expo West.

Tissue Banks International (TBI) announced the availability of the VisionGraft Sterile Cornea, a sterile cornea allograft. The Vision- Graft Sterile Cornea (patent pending) is an irradiated cornea for use in tectonic transplant procedures. Visit Tissue Banks International Web site,, for further information.

. ◻ Lighthouse International announced it will undertake a study of a new retinal prosthesis, which translates images from a spectaclemounted miniature camera to direct electrical stimulation of the retina. Designed for treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, Lighthouse International says the prosthesis is showing promising results. See for more information.

Bausch & Lomb announced that R. Kerry Clark and Robert J. Palmisano have joined its board of directors. Mr. Clark retired in September 2009 as chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, a Fortune 20 company. Mr. Palmisano is the president, CEO and director of ev3, a global provider of technology for treating peripheral vascular disease and neurovascular diseases.

Volk Optical was awarded a Governor's Excellence in Exporting Award by Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. The award recognizes Ohio companies who have shown superior performance in exporting.

◻ Of note to all optometrists, especially those of you who comanage patients who have retinal disease: Projections from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that the number of Americans who are afflicted with diabetes will increase from the number of 23 million today to 48 million by the year 2050.

Optometric Management, Issue: November 2009