Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety Applauds Introduction of the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced in the House by Representatives Rush (IL-1) and Burgess (TX-26)
(WASHINGTON) – The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) released the following statement in response to today’s introduction of the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act (H.R. 3975). The bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL-1) and Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX-26) will help modernize the contact lens prescription verification process and make it simpler and safer for millions of contact lens wearers.
Millions of Americans are able to purchase their contact lenses online thanks to the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA). However, as a patient health safeguard, the law requires online sellers to verify the validity of contact lens prescriptions with the patient’s doctor before fulfilling an order. While the FCLCA clearly allows the use of telephone, fax, or e-mail for verifying prescriptions, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has interpreted the law to allow robocall verification, as well.
The use of robocalls to confirm the accuracy of a prescription, which includes several specifications, is far too complicated for an automated phone system. Information relayed in these robocalls is oftentimes garbled or does not align with a patient’s chart—making it difficult, or even impossible, to correctly identify the patient and proper prescription.
“Robocalls should never be used to communicate with a physician’s office regarding patient health and safety matters,” said Barbara L . Horn, OD, President of the American Optometric Association. “With Internet-based mass retailers failing to fix the problem, AOA doctors of optometry are pleased to see Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) and other health policy leaders in Congress joining together on a bi-partisan basis with the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety to close an outrageous robocall loophole that’s undermining quality care and putting the public at risk.”
H.R. 3975 increases patient safety by prohibiting prescription verification made via robocall and establishing a paper trail by instead requiring that online sellers use direct communication – a live phone call, fax, or e-mail – to confirm prescriptions. The bill also requires online sellers to develop HIPAA-compliant methods for patients to electronically transmit contact lens prescriptions.
Dr. Deanna Alexander, Chairwoman of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, said, “Increasing patients’ choice in the contact lens marketplace should never jeopardize patient safety. The Alliance thanks Congressman Rush and Congressman Burgess for the introduction of this thoughtful legislation that strengthens patient safety and addresses a loophole in the current passive verification system, which often leaves patients at risk of being provided incorrect prescriptions that can lead to adverse health conditions and even vision loss. We will continue to work with Congress to be a strong voice and advocate for patient health and safety.”
On May 2, 2019, the FTC proposed supplemental rulemaking on the 2016 proposed Contact Lens Rule acknowledging some of the key problems associated with prescription verification via robocalls and the misuse of the prescription verification process, which can contribute to substitution of a non-prescribed brand or manufacturer of lenses. However, the proposed supplemental rulemaking does not close the contact lens prescription verification loophole. The Alliance believes congressional action is necessary to ensure that patients receive the exact lenses prescribed by their doctor and increase patient safety. A fact sheet on the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act can be found here.
“H.R. 3975 will help ensure prescription validation for millions of contact lens wearers is completed in the most responsible way possible,” said Mary Anne Murphy, OD, and VSP Global board member. “We commend the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety for its strong leadership on this important legislation which protects patients, while also preserving choice and convenience for them.”
More than 45 million Americans rely on contact lenses – U.S. Food and Drug Administration Class II and Class III regulated medical devices – for safe and effective vision correction. Contact lenses are more complex than they appear, having differing shapes, strengths, and water contents. There are no generics. Improper lens usage, which can result from the substitution of lenses not as prescribed by the patient’s doctor, can lead to serious health complications, including infections and other sight-threatening conditions, such as corneal edema, ulcers, and neovascularization.
“Addressing shortcomings in outmoded verification techniques is central to ensuring what’s prescribed is actually dispensed. This is essential for optimal vision and ocular health, since doctors select specific contact lenses for individual patient needs,” said Michele Andrews, OD, Senior Director, North American Professional & Academic Affairs, CooperVision. “The Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act does just that, with the potential to advance healthy contact lens wear for millions of Americans.”
The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety has made it a priority to close loopholes within the existing verification process and prevent the substitution of lenses to reduce the risk of preventable vision loss.
The Alliance was founded in 2018 to advocate for patient safety and to protect and defend the doctor-patient relationship—the essential foundation of personalized health care decision making. For more information, please visit www.PatientSafetyToday.com.