Article Date: 1/1/2011

Practice pulse TIPS, TRENDS & NEWS YOU CAN USE

Optometry Named as “Best Career”

US NEWS & WORLD REPORT NAMES THE PROFESSION AS ONE OF THE 50 BEST CAREERS OF 2011

U.S. News & World Report, a consumer magazine that covers money, politics and policy, health and education, among other topics, has named optometry as one of the 50 best careers of 2011 in its unranked list.

“I think optometry is an excellent career choice because it offers flexibility. It is the ultimate ‘choose your own adventure,’” says optometrist Justin Bazan, of Park Slope, N.Y. “You may choose to be a general practitioner or have a sub-specialty. We have a spread of settings; you may choose to work in a hospital, a private practice or commercial setting. Within those choices lie many permutations, surely enough for everyone to find something they love.”

Why optometry?

The reasons optometry made the list, according to the magazine: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says it expects a greater than 24% growth in the profession through 2018. Translation: 8,500 new jobs.

In addition, ophthalmic technology is improving, enabling O.D.s to increase their patient load, and the need for visual aids is expected to increase due to aging baby boomers.

(In fact, as a result of the aging baby boomer generation, all healthcare occupations on the magazine's 2010 list made this year's list, with two additions: athletic trainer and massage therapist. The other healthcare jobs listed: dental hygenist, lab technician, occupational therapist, physician assistant, physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, radiological technologist and registered nurse.)

“I foresee the profession maintaining a position on the list in the years to come because optometry is a profession that is adapting with the times,” says Dr. Bazan. “For example, a patient can use a social networking review site, like Yelp.com, to learn about the experiences of other patients and decide whether the office is a good match for them. This is great for both the doctor and the patient, as it cultivates a culture of extreme caring.”

Compiling the list

U.S. News & World Report editors say they based the list on job-growth projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — estimates for 2008 to 2019 — and then whittled the data down to professions expected to add jobs at an above-average median income through the next decade.

In addition, the editors say they considered, where possible, job satisfaction, turnover and forthcoming retirement data, which spur openings in professions that may have hardly noticeable above-average employment growth.

Finally, the magazine's editors say they spoke with labor and industry experts to amass anecdotal evidence regarding job prospects and satisfaction.

U.S. News & World Report disclaimer: The editors say they excluded careers that lacked a statistically significant number of positions, and therefore, provided little opportunity.

Also, the magazine's editors say they favored occupations that would help diversify the “Best Careers” list, in terms of category and educational requirements, as not everyone desires a healthcare career or six years of schooling.

President Signs Bill Delaying Medicare Payment Cuts

BILL ALLOWS PHYSICIANS TO REST EASY — FOR NOW — REGARDING MEDICARE REIMBURSEMENT

■ On December 15, President Obama signed the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 (H.R. 4994). The Bill reverses the 25% reduction of Medicare physician payment rates that were scheduled to go into effect the first of this month, and extends the current payment rates until December 31, 2011.

“The passage of this legislation is an acknowledgement of the importance of a functioning healthcare system. Unfortunately, the real solution is a definitive restructuring of payments that addresses issues related to cost of technology, clinician services, patient access etc.,” says optometrist J. James Thimons, clinical director of OM, who also practices in Fairfield, Conn. “Until legislators address these concerns by creating a long-term solution, the ‘patchwork’ system of extensions that has been employed to maintain the program will not succeed.”'

H.R. 4994 was sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and co-sponsored by all 20 Congressional Democrats. It was introduced to Congress on April 13, 2010. On April 14, 2010, it passed in the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 399 Ayes, nine Nays and 21 Present/Not voting. On December 8, 2010, the Senate passed the bill with changes by Unanimous Consent. On December 9, 2010, a vote in the House of Representatives to agree with the Senate's changes passed by a roll call vote of 409 Ayes, two Nays and 22 Present/Not Voting.

Patients Rate Their Top Priorities

LOOKING FOR A CHEERFUL PRACTICE

■ When it comes to patient satisfaction, what do patients in medical settings in general perceive as the top priority? The sensitivity of caregivers to patient needs, says the 2010 Medical Practice Pulse Report, a report that includes the feedback of 2.7 million patients, according to its publisher, Press Ganey, a medical consulting firm.

Other top priorities of patients included:

► overall cheerfulness of the practice;
► overall rating of care;
► comfort of exam rooms;
► time spent waiting in the exam room.

With regard to the last bullet point, the report revealed that patients who spend less time waiting are more satisfied than those who have long wait times. Further, the report showed that while most patients expect to wait, it's critical that the staff recognizes the patient's time is valuable as they move through their visit, to maintain patient satisfaction.

Press Ganey also recommended several strategies to achieve a cheerful practice:

Dedicate “on-stage” and “off-stage” staff areas. This helps ensure the staff act in a professional manner while “on-stage” with patients.
Respect patients' time. When unanticipated waits occur, keeping the patient informed can mitigate the patient's dissatisfaction with the wait.
Note non-clinical information in patient files. Alluding to hobbies, interests and family stories may improve the patient experience. Electronic health records have a dedicated space to record social information.
Consider beginning each patient meeting with a question to the patient about what the patient wants to accomplish during the visit. If you, as the doctor, can get patients to ask questions and voice concerns during the visit and address their feedback, it could result in fewer follow-up phone calls from the patient to office staff.

Alcon and Novartis Come to Agreement on Merger Terms

COMPANIES EXPECT TO COMPLETE MERGER THIS YEAR

■ Novartis AG and Alcon, Inc. have announced they've entered into a definitive agreement, whereby Alcon, Inc. will merge into Novartis. Under the agreement's terms, Novartis will pay a total merger consideration valued at $168 per share for the Alcon shares the company doesn't already own. Specifically, the merger consideration will be comprised of up to 2.8 Novartis shares, and if necessary, a cash contingent value amount that results in a total value of $168 per share. If the value of 2.8 Novartis shares is more than $168, the number of Novartis shares will be reduced accordingly. (Formulas set forth in the merger agreement will be used to calculate the exact exchange ratio and cash contingent value amount.)

“The growth synergies here are significant, as Alcon will be the eye-care development engine for our best-in-class research organization and will leverage the Novartis market access capabilities outside the U.S.,” says Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis.

Kevin Buehler, current president and CEO of Alcon, Inc., who will head the Alcon division at Novartis, says the merger will create a stronger eyecare business with broader commercial reach and enhanced capabilities to develop innovative eyecare products that fulfill unmet clinical needs.

“The combination of Alcon's deep understanding of the eyecare specialty and the broad expertise and scale of Novartis will address virtually all key areas of eye care and position the Alcon business unit for faster growth.”

The merger's completion is conditional, among other things, on clearance of a registration statement by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and two-thirds approval by both Novartis and Alcon, via a vote at their respective shareholders' meetings, to be announced. That said, the companies say they expect the merger to be completed within the first half of 2011. Subsequently, Alcon will become the new eyecare division of Novartis and will include CIBA Vision and select Novartis ophthalmic medicines.

Presbyopia Corrections in The Pipeline

The following presbyopia corrections were introduced at the annual American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting:

Corneal lens implant with built-in prescription. A micro-lens, called the Flexilens, from Presbia (www.presbia.com) has the patient's prescription incorporated into its outer area. Surgeons insert the lens into the cornea of the non-dominant eye through a femtosecond laser-created pocket. Post insertion, the pocket self-seals and maintains the lens' position. The result: improved near vision and decreased distance vision. The lens is available in Europe.

Corneal inlay “pinhole” lens. The AcuFocus corneal inlay lens, from AcuFocus (www.acufocus.com) is a small, donut-shaped lens inserted in the center of the non-dominant eye's cornea, via a LASIK-like corneal flap. Due to the AcuFocus' pinhole optics, the lens blocks peripheral light, though central rays are unaffected. The result: improved near vision. Although distance vision is mostly unaffected, Acufocus patients may notice a slight difference when comparing their two eyes. U.S. clinical trials on the lens are underway.

Corneal reshaping minus surface breaking. Intracor presbyopia correction, from Technolas Perfect Vision GmbH (www.technolaspv.com), is comprised of femtosecond laser energy pulses inside the non-dominant eye's cornea to cause a biomechanical change in the cornea that shifts its center slightly forward. The result: improved near vision and preserved distance vision without tissue removal. Intracor has garnered the attention across the globe and is gaining momentum as a viable treatment in the United States.

O.D. NOTEBOOK
Bausch + Lomb will extend its “See Better and Save” rebate program for patients who have the Crystalens accommodating intraocular lens (IOL) implanted before March 31. Patients will be eligible for a rebate of up to $250 per eye.

The Carl Zeiss Group concluded fiscal year 2009/10 with an increase in revenues of 42% vs. the previous year, according to a company press release.

Optometry Cares, the American Optometric Association Foundation, invites third-year optometry students to submit an essay for each of the two scholarships it offers: the Dr. Seymour Galina Grant and the InfantSEE Scholarship Grant, the latter sponsored by Vision West, Inc. All essays must be received no later than February 4, 2011. For more information visit www.optometryscharity.org/endowment-fund/scholarship-grants/endowed-scholarships.

Yves Saint Laurent announced it has renewed its agreement with Safilo Group for the design, production and worldwide distribution of Yves Saint Laurent frames and sunglasses.

VSP Global has appointed Dave Plevyak, vice president of Business Development, to lead an internal task force for its new online optical initiative. The task force is expected to announce its recommendations early this year. In related news, VSP Vision Care has been named a Gold Award Winner as the “Top Rated Vision Care Company” by TopTen-REVIEWS.com, a review website covering software, web services, consumer electronics and entertainment.

Transitions Optical, Inc. will recognize one national and one regional Retailer of the Year during the annual Transitions Academy this month. Finalists for the National Retailer of the Year include Eye Care Centers of America (ECCA) & Empire Vision and National Vision, Inc. (NVI). Finalists for the Regional Retailer of the Year award include Eyear Optical, Henry Ford OptimEyes and SVS Vision Optical Centers. In related news, Transitions has kicked off its year-long 20th anniversary celebration by awarding 20 monthly prizes and one $20,000 grand prize through the 2011 Transitions Certificate of Authenticity (COA) program. You can register in the COA program by visiting www.Transitions.com/RegisterMe.

□ Optometry students Sara Lahoud and Nick Olberding have been selected as the winners of the World Sight Day Challenge (WSDC) Student Contest, and Kirra Denten has been chosen as the winner of the WSDC Challenge Vision Source Contest. The winners will spend one week in 2011 providing support to sustainable vision care projects in a developing country. The World Sight Day Challenge Student Contest and WSDC Vision Source Contest are sponsored by Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity International, Optometry Giving Sight and Vision Source.

Wells Fargo Practice Finance, formerly Matsco, announced that it has become the preferred provider for optometric practice and equipment financing for American Optometric Association (AOA) members. Through the Member Advantage Program, Wells Fargo will offer a range of financial products that offer preferred rates. More information can be found at www.wellsfargo.com/practicefinance.

Menicon Company announced the appointment of Steven Newman as chief technical officer. Mr. Newman joined Menicon Company with the acquisition of the ClearLab Flat Pack technology from 1-800 Contacts in June 2007. The company expects to introduce its One Day Flat Pack technology this year.

Optometry Giving Sight recognized Wolters Kluwer (WK) Pharma Solutions VisionCare Group, the publisher of OM, as a Gold In-Kind National Sponsor. WK's Pharma Solutions VisionCare Group has been a supporter of the vision charity for many years by providing in-kind ad and advertorial space in its magazines.


ABO/NCLE Investigation Leads to New Financial Controls
DIRECTOR AND CFO EMBEZZLE $1.5 MILLION
■ The American Board of Opticianry and the National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO/NCLE) have established new management and financial procedures and controls following the embezzlement of $1.5 million from the organizations.
“Despite this incident, ABO and NCLE remain financially strong organizations capable of serving the certification needs of the optical community,” says ABO/NCLE Executive Director Jim Gandorf. “We are implementing every measure possible to assure that no further problems of this type will be repeated.”
In early 2010, an ABO/NCLE investigation revealed suspected financial impropriety involving ABO/NCLE Executive Director Michael Robey. Mr. Robey pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement in November 2010 and is awaiting sentencing.
The investigation later found alleged financial impropriety involving ABO/NCLE Chief Financial Officer Carletta Carter-Stewart, who was terminated in August 2010 and charged with seven counts of embezzlement last month.
Based on results of an audit, ABO/NCLE upgraded its management procedures, implemented additional internal controls, established a lockbox for payments receivable and hired a new accounting firm.

FDA News
QLT091001, an oral synthetic retinoid from QLT, Inc. (makers of Visudyne), has received orphan drug designation by the FDA to treat leber congenital amaurosis and retinitis pigmentosa. QLT091001 is a replacement for 11-cis-retinal — an essential component of the retinoid-rhodopsin cycle and visual function.
■ The FDA has issued a Complete Response Letter to Alimera Sciences to communicate its decision not to approve the company's New Drug Application for fluocinolone acetonide intravitreal insert (Iluvien), for the treatment of diabetic macular edema, in its present form. Its reasons: The FDA wants analyses of the safety and efficacy data through 36 months of the company's two Phase III clinical trials, including exploratory analyses, in addition to those previously submitted to it; it wants additional data regarding controls and specifications concerning the manufacturing, packaging and sterilization of the drug; and it wants Current Good Manufacturing practice deficiencies rectified in two of Alimera's third-party manufacturing facilities.

AMD Website for Children

The website https://www.childrenscorner.org, from the American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF) is designed to teach children (ages four to 11) about age-related macular degeneration (AMD) through stories, games and collaborative features, such as an e-scrap-book and message board. The site also includes educational resources for students, teachers and healthcare professionals.
Funding for the site was made possible, in part, through a healthcare charitable contribution from the Pfizer Foundation.
The AHAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding cures for age-related and degenerative diseases by funding research worldwide on Alzheimer's disease, AMD, and glaucoma. In addition, it provides free information about these diseases, such as risk factors, preventative lifestyles, current treatments and coping strategies.


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2011