“Obviously, this is a very different year to become AOA president,” optometrist William T. Reynolds, O.D., newly elected American Optometric Association president says, via phone. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the release of the Federal Trade Commission’s updated Contact Lens Rule, it could be argued that “different” doesn’t do justice to what’s ahead of him and the more than 120-year-old organization. Yet, he is both confident and resolute, pointing to the goals he has for the AOA and, in turn, his practicing colleagues.
- Educating managed care companies. “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of operating a practice has gone up exponentially, due to the need for PPE, cleaning equipment, time-consuming cleaning protocols, and plan reimbursement has been stagnant,” he explains. “This is an issue we are going to educate payers on — what optometry practice owners now have to pay to keep their doors open.”
- Pushing the “Practice of Contemporary Optometry” initiative. Through upcoming education, such as webinars, the AOA will be providing both doctors and staff with specific how-to tips associated with practicing optometry to its fullest level, asserts the Richmond, Ky. optometrist. The purpose: to move doctors of optometry away from depending solely on annual exams and the sales of spectacles and contact lenses to practicing to the fullest extent of their knowledge and training.
“The pandemic has certainly accelerated the need for this initiative, as it has prompted several of our patients to seek online resources for their ophthalmic needs,” he offers. “We know there is much more to optometry than refractive services, including medical eye care, sports vision, visual rehabilitation, specialty contact lenses and more.”
- Providing continued support for doctors of optometry. Dr. Reynolds says the organization has already provided support to O.D.s affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by advocating for relief funding through PPP and HHS, freezing dues for two months, helping state affiliates and creating the Optometry Cares Relief Fund for practices in areas that are slower to recover. “The AOA will continue to do whatever it takes to support optometric practices and the patients they serve,” he asserts.
- Fighting the good fight. “Despite our disappointment over the final amendment to the Contact Lens Rule, we are not backing down. We will continue to fight back,” he says. “We are asking every doctor of optometry, student and paraoptometric to contact their legislators about the problems with the amendment.” To keep doctors informed of the rule and its advocacy efforts, the AOA held an #AskAOA Webinar on July 30, during which doctors could find out more information about the updated rule. OM