When a patient orders contact lenses online, the online contact lens retailer is required to attempt to verify a contact lens prescription before sending the medical devices to a patient for use. Many retailers use computer-generated voices and calls, like robocalls, to attempt verification. The APS knows that the continued use of antiquated prescription verification technology in the contact lens market means incorrect prescriptions will continue to be sent to patients, which can lead to adverse eye and vision health outcomes.
Robocalls require significant follow-up by doctors and their staff, as the information these robocalls provide is often incomplete, impossible to understand, or related to a person who has never been a patient of the eye doctor receiving the call. If an optometrist’s office is unable to verify the validity of a prescription due to incomplete, inaccurate, or incomprehensible information in the robocall, a contact lens prescription is automatically “verified” after eight hours and lenses are sent to the patient.
APS has long maintained that either written electronic communication or a live phone call would be safer, more responsible and efficient verification methods to ensure patients safely receive their correct prescription for contact lenses — class II and class III medical devices.
Consumer advocates agree: the National Consumers League said in a recent article that it’s time for Congress to update the rules governing the contact lens industry by moving to common-sense signage instead of burdensome paperwork requirements, and requiring online contact lens sellers to use email or other electronic communication to verify prescriptions, not automated robocalls, to keep consumers safe.
A legislative solution
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers have gone on the record calling for changes to how contact lens prescriptions are verified and how patients are notified of their prescription rights. APS has vowed to work with Congress to pass the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act and the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act to protect patients. These acts would prohibit prescription verification made via robocall and establish a paper trail by instead requiring that online sellers use direct communication – a live phone call, fax, or e-mail – to confirm prescriptions.
In addition, the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act would eliminate certain paperwork requirements that have posed a burden on both patients and their doctors — the so-called “signed acknowledgement form” — and instead alert patients to their rights via written notifications placed within the prescriber’s clinic. The use of signage to notify patients of their rights is a standard across the country, i.e., HIPAA signs. In the realm of patients’ contact lens prescription rights, the state of California currently uses signage to notify patients of their right to their contact lens prescription; patient safety advocates find the measure informative, nonintrusive, and less burdensome for patients and their doctors.
What does a robocall sound like?
Online retailers can take advantage of current FTC regulations to attempt prescription verification through robocalls. These calls are often incomplete, impossible to understand, or related to a person who has never been a patient of the eye doctor receiving the call. This can lead to incorrect prescriptions being sent to patients, which can lead to adverse eye and vision health outcomes. Listen to an example of a contact lens verification robocall.
This robocall, like so many, does not include the patient name or contact lens manufacturer, making it nearly impossible for doctors to verify the prescription. It also states that if there is a problem, they will “do their best to get back within two business days.” However, by that point in time, the contact lenses will have already shipped.
Patient safety advocates can urge the Senate to consider the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act: