Article Date: 12/1/2001

Practice Pulse:
Tips, Trends & News You Can Use

Company Believes Customers Are Receptive to Change

The contact lens mail-order house 1-800 CONTACTS plans a new role -- creating its own network of doctors -- in the upcoming months, according to Jonathan Coon, CEO.

"We recently began testing whether we could successfully transition our customers into new products by assisting them in getting fitted for a new brand of contact lenses," Coon says. "Our tests indicate that our customers are receptive to an offer to try both a new product and a new eyecare provider." Coon says that if his company plays a more active role in patients' choice of product and provider, it should help address the policies of manufacturers who try to eliminate competition by selling their brands exclusively to eye doctors.

Coon also notes, "Consumers don't want to wear a 'doctor exclusive' product, nor do business with the doctor that prescribes it."

Vistakon Sues 1-800 CONTACTS for Unfair Competition

1-800 CONTACTS' decision to take a more proactive role in patients' product and provider decisions has prompted Vistakon to file a law suit.

Citing 1-800's policy to transition customers to new products, Vistakon considers the materials they have distributed to customers to be "false and misleading." According to the complaint Vistakon filed, 1-800 CONTACTS violates the Federal Lanham Act, state unfair competition statutes and Florida common law of defamation. Vistakon's action seeks to stop 1-800 CONTACTS from using this policy, to require them to disseminate corrective advertising and to pay damages.

Fees Cut Overall, But Office-Based Exams Increase

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its new fee schedule recently.

A new, Medicare-approved benefit to screen high-risk patients for glaucoma will begin on January 1, 2002. Medicare recipients who have diabetes, a family history of glau-coma and who are African American are eligible. The service will include a dilated eye exam with an intraocular pressure measurement and direct ophthalmoscopy or slit-lamp biomicroscopic examination. The Medicare payment will be $52.13 when performed in an office setting.

Fees for ophthalmic services performed in a surgical facility setting were generally reduced, while those performed in offices increased slightly. Fees for in-office visits for comprehensive eye exams, new patient check ups and 92004 (the code for a new patient comprehensive eye exam) increased from $120.51 to $123.44. The exam fee for established patients increased from $87.61 to $91.22. The fee for cataract surgery with intraocular lens implantation decreased from $742.50 to $669.32.

Hormone Therapy May Cause Dry Eye

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may cause dry eye, according to a recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

After studying data from 25,000 postmenopausal women, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston concluded that postmenopausal women, especially those using estrogen alone, had a higher prevalence of dry eye than women who never used HRT. The exact link wasn't found, but the doctors theorize that hormone levels influence lacrimal gland activity. They recommend that physicians consider these findings when prescribing HRT.


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2001