What is the Future for Contact Lenses and Optometry?
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM, FAAO
After getting back from volunteering at the annual Optometry’s Meeting in St. Louis, I feel energized from all the excitement and energy that surrounded the conference. Optometrists, students, and industry partners all gathered at the AOA’s hometown to welcome the new executive board and celebrate the profession where the focus of scope expansion towards surgical and laser procedures is all abuzz. As more ODs embrace the medical model, it is important not to forget what differentiated us from the other “O’s.” The American Optometric Association and state associations continue to focus on protecting patients and educating legislators regarding illegal contact lens sales as certain groups have challenged the Federal Trade Commission’s Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA). The FCLCA allows patients to obtain their contact lens prescription and choose where they want to purchase them; however, the loopholes within this Act have caused concerns with these medical devices. Contact lenses are classified by the Food and Drug Administration as Class II and Class III devices since 1976 and have extensive consumer information on their website to ensure patient safety.1 While the FDA is focused on patient safety, the FTC is focused on fair competition and now patients and providers are stuck in the middle.
The concept of contact lenses was first thought of by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508, but it took over 300 years to first produce a glass contact lens in 1887.2 About 50 years later contact lenses were manufactured from plastic and were originally designed to cover the entire eye. It was not until the 1970s that soft and gas permeable contact lenses were introduced and were more accepted by patients.2 As optical designs & new materials evolved, along with more efficient manufacturing processes, the contact lenses global market has grown. It was valued at approximately $11.86 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow 5.6% through 2025.3
According to the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, 45 million people in the United States use contact lenses for vision correction and there are close to 1 million emergency room and medical emergencies annually due to improper contact lens use that costs the healthcare system approximately $175 million.4 When reimbursements are decreasing and access to quality care is flat, it is more important than ever for optometrists to remain as the key stakeholder for contact lenses. Years after the enactment of the FCLCA, the 10-year review process challenged the FTC to change passive prescription verification procedures that will cause even more documentation by providers. Since contact lenses are governed by two government agencies, the FDA and FTC, the doctor-patient relationship can be eroded by default, which could lead to additional preventative emergency visits, higher healthcare costs and loss of vision. It is the responsibility of every optometrist in the United States to inform their Representative and Senators to support the House Committee on Appropriations to update the FTC’s contact lens verification process.5 If you have not done so, click here, or here, to voice your opinion for the safety of our patients.
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM has a unique background in areas of holistic eye care, business management and healthcare reform. He specializes in LEAN clinical management and operations, technology implementation, healthcare strategy, and strategic partnerships. Currently, he serves as a consultant for for the FDA, Immediate Past-President & Education Chairperson for the Maryland Optometric Association, Federal Keyperson and Meetings Committee Member for the American Optometric Association, reviewer for the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education and is the Founder of Eye-Exec Consulting, LLC. To contact Bryan, visit www.eye-exec.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.