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Patient safety must remain utmost priority as technology evolves

(WASHINGTON) – The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) today held an event titled “Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education” in Washington, DC, in conjunction with The Hill. Speakers and panelists continually advocated for synchronizing modern telehealth practices with a strong doctor-patient relationship – a win-win for patients who would see an
increase in health care access while also fostering better health outcomes.

“A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, telehealth experts, and vision and health care professionals today made clear that even as technology makes us more connected, a strong doctor-patient relationship remains fundamental to treating existing medial ailments and improve health outcomes,” said Alliance Chairwoman Dr. Deanna Alexander, O.D. “The Alliance believes that increased usage of telemedicine can help increase access to healthcare, but technology must be used prudently and can’t be seen as a replacement for all in-person examinations and care.”

Panelists shared how regular consultation with a doctor is critically important to promoting patient health. In the vision health field, a staggering ninety-four percent of patients reported a change in their prescription since their last visit – meaning without a regular eye exam, the patient would have an incorrect prescription. Eye doctors can also determine over 270 underlying health conditions during an exam – like macular degeneration, diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma – making regular examinations crucial to preventative care.

Meanwhile, ill-advised online vision screenings increase the likelihood of poor-fitting lenses. A wrongly-fitted contact lens can cause blurred vision leading to blindness, open sores on the patient’s eyes, and bacterial and viral infections that could lead to vision loss.

Further, in-person consultations can assist with educating patients on proper vision health practices. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Prevention (CDC) has reported the troubling frequency of dangerous practices related to improper contact lens care, all of which can lead negative health conditions:

  • Fifty percent of patients wear contact lenses while sleeping
  • Fifty-five percent of patients improperly add contact solution to their cases, instead of emptying the case and using new, clean solution
  • Eighty-two percent of patients keep their contact lens cases longer than recommended

Event speakers included Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA), Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Mr. Peter Menziuso, President of North America for Johnson & Johnson Vision, and Co-Chair of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, Dr. David Cockrell, Owner of Cockrell Eyecare Center in Stillwater, Okla., Susan Polan, Associate Executive Director, Public Affairs & Advocacy, American Public Health Association, Natasa Sokolovich, Executive Director, Telehealth, University of Pittsburgh and Samantha Zenlea, Senior Regulatory Policy Specialist, National Council on Aging.

Read the press release here. 

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Johnson & Johnson Vision Care North America President added to slate of speakers at telehealth event

(ARLINGTON, Va.) -  The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) today announced an additional speaker at their event titled “Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education” on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7:30 a.m. at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Mr. Peter Menziuso, President of North America Vision Care for Johnson & Johnson Vision, and Co-Chair of the Alliance, will provide the sponsor’s perspective at the event.

The event is part of The Hill’s event series and is open to the public and members of the press. Those interested in attending can RSVP here. The event is free to attend.

Other event speakers will include a bipartisan group of lawmakers, industry professionals, and vision and telehealth experts. The event will explore how telemedicine is making healthcare more efficient and effective, when in-person services might be more reliable and how to maintain a strong doctor-patient relationship as technology evolves.

A full list of speakers is as follows:

  • Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA)
  • Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA)
  • Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA)
  • Peter Menziuso, President of North America Vision Care for Johnson & Johnson Vision, and Co-Chair of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety
  • David Cockrell, Owner of Cockrell Eyecare Center in Stillwater, Okla.
  • Susan Polan, Associate Executive Director, Public Affairs & Advocacy, American Public Health Association
  • Natasa Sokolovich, Executive Director, Telehealth, University of Pittsburgh
  • Samantha Zenlea, Senior Regulatory Policy Specialist, National Council on Aging

Event details are as follows:

“Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

7:30-9:30 a.m.

Washington Court Hotel Grand Ballroom

525 New Jersey Ave.

Washington, D.C. 20001

For more information on the event, please click here. Members of the press or the general public can RSVP for the event by clicking here.

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 http://www.patientsafetytoday.com/.

Read the press release here

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Upcoming Discussion on Telemedicine and the Doctor-Patient Relationship

Free event will be held in Washington, D.C. on September 27th; Event is open to the public, press

 

(ARLINGTON, Va.) - The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety today announced that it will sponsor an event titled “Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education” on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7:30 a.m. at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. The event is part of The Hill’s event series and is open to the public and members of the press. Those interested in attending can RSVP here. The event is free to attend.

Speakers, which will include a bipartisan group of lawmakers, industry professionals and vision and telehealth experts, will explore how telemedicine is making healthcare more efficient and effective, when in-person services might be more reliable and how to maintain a strong doctor-patient relationship as technology evolves.

Speakers will include:

  • Congressman Buddy Carter (R-GA)
  • Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA)
  • Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA)
  • Dr. David Cockrell, Owner of Cockrell Eyecare Center in Stillwater, Okla.
  • Susan Polan, Associate Executive Director, Public Affairs & Advocacy, American Public Health Association
  • Natasa Sokolovich, Executive Director, Telehealth, University of Pittsburgh
  • Samantha Zenlea, Senior Regulatory Policy Specialist, National Council on Aging

Event details are as follows:

“Evolution of Telehealth: Patient Awareness and Education”
Thursday, September 27, 2018
7:30-9:30 a.m.
Washington Court Hotel Grand Ballroom
525 New Jersey Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20001


For more information on the event, please click here. Members or the general public can RSVP for the event by clicking here.

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.

 

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Senate Bill Calls Attention to Vision Health

(ARLINGTON, Va.) – The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) today applauded the United States Senate, which last Thursday passed a bill that instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to examine eye health research findings to increase patients’ vision safety and to update its reports on the burdens of keratitis – inflammation of clear tissue on the front of the cornea – and contact lens-related infections.

“The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety has worked diligently with lawmakers to ensure patients have a more complete understanding of vision health facts and potential dangers from using contact lenses sold by online retailers that may not have been prescribed, verified and properly fit by an eye doctor,” said Alliance Chairwoman Dr. Deanna Alexander, O.D. “Our members and patient safety advocates are eager to continue working with lawmakers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and relevant agencies to ensure that patients have access to proper data to make informed decisions regarding their vision health.”

Specifically, the bill states:

“Vision Health.—Vision impairment often occurs as a co-morbidity with other chronic illness, such as chronic heart disease, stroke, depression, and smoking, at substantially higher rates than individuals without vision impairment. CDC is encouraged to apply previous CDC vision and eye health research findings to develop effective prevention and early detection interventions, and to incorporate vision and eye health promotion activities into existing State and national public health chronic disease initiatives, with an initial focus on early detection of diabetic retinopathy. In addition, the Committee encourages CDC to update its reports on the estimated burden of keratitis and contact lens-related infections.”

The bill passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support, 85-7.

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.

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Sightbox Announced as Alliance Member

(ARLINGTON, Va.) - The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) today announced that Sightbox is the organization’s newest member. Sightbox is an eye health membership service that partners with the patient and the patient’s doctor for an in-person eye health exam, vision test and contact lens fitting, to ensure the medical device is properly fitted, the prescription is verified and submitted by the doctor, and a safe and ample supply of contact lenses is delivered directly to the patient over the following twelve months.

“The Alliance is excited to welcome Sightbox as an associate member,” said Alliance Chair Deanna Alexander, O.D. “Sightbox recognizes the importance of comprehensive eye care and preserving the doctor-patient relationship so our patients continue to receive the highest quality eye care.”

Sightbox joins the Alliance as an associate member. Alliance founding members include leadership member the American Optometric Association, leadership member Johnson & Johnson Vision and associate member CooperVision. VSP joined the Alliance as a leadership member.

“We know that there is no replacement for a qualified eye care professional, and that the best quality eye care can only happen through a strong doctor-patient relationship,” said Travis Rush, CEO of Sightbox. “That is why we are proud to join the Alliance in helping to ensure that nothing gets in the way of high-quality eye care for patients.”

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

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APS Champions Patient Safety in D.C.

(ALRINGTON, Va.) - The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) this week held its “Day on the Hill,” with vision doctors from across the United States sharing insights and data with policy makers.

Esteemed doctors of optometry representing the Alliance met with White House officials, Members of Congress, Congressional staff and health regulators, discussing the importance of maintaining a strong doctor-patient relationship, the necessity of safe, healthy and effective use of medical devices, protecting prescription integrity and regulatory enforcement.

Dr. Jim DeVleming and Dr. Jacquie Bowen met with White House staff to both President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael R. Pence, briefing them on the Alliance’s legislative and regulatory priorities.

As some Alliance leaders were at the White House, others went to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress. Following meetings with individual Members, Alliance Chair Deanna Alexander, O.D., moderated an informative panel at the Rayburn House Office Building. The panel included Michele L. Andrews, O.D., CooperVision; Carol L. Alexander, O.D, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care; and the immediate Past-President of Contact Lens & Cornea Section of the American Optometric Association, Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D.

The panel called attention to the proposed Contact Lens Rule, which is currently under consideration by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Attendees were surprised to learn of how some online retailers bend current rules.

The panel explored the need to reform rules surrounding the prescription verification process, illustrating how rules are bent by playing a recording of a robocall from Jan. 1, 2018 – a national holiday in which most businesses are closed. This recording demonstrates retailers using computer-generated recordings that lack basic, necessary information like a patent’s name, to verify prescriptions.

As the panel pointed out, it is impossible to verify a prescription if a vision doctor is not given the name of the individual to crosscheck the prescription details. In addition, the robocall audio is nearly unintelligible even when listening intently for content. The robocall can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/2KewJxQ

The panel also shared an informational video produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which highlights the importance of proper contact lens care. In the CDC’s video, a University of Alabama football player shares his story about how improper care led to Acanthamoeba keratitis, an infection of the eye. This condition has caused permanent vision loss for the patient and will require him to have a major eye procedure in an effort to restore vision.

The “Day on the Hill” and Congressional briefing concluded with panelists and Alliance champions urging attendees to encourage the FTC to consider these and other examples when finalizing the Contact Lens Rule. Following the briefing, panelists took questions from Congressional staffers.

Interested parties can access photos of Alliance champions advocating for patient safety here: http://bit.ly/2HxNaDM. Photo credit can be attributed to the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety. 

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APS Congressional Day on the Hill

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) this week held its “Day on the Hill,” with vision doctors from across the United States sharing insights and data with policy makers. Below are several scenes from our time spent with policy makers. 

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Hill Briefing on Contact Lens Safety

(ARLINGTON, VA) – The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance) will hold a congressional briefing on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, from Noon-1 p.m. in The Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2247, to discuss the importance of protecting the safety of patients who use contact lenses, which are regulated medical devices.

Attendees at the briefing will include vision care professionals, congressional staff and Alliance champions.

The briefing will include a panel that focuses on four key areas:

  1. Maintaining a strong doctor-patient relationship when it comes to contact lens prescriptions, especially with the emergence of dangerous, abusive or harmful medical device marketing practices that increase patients’ risk for harm.
  2. The importance of the safe, healthy and effective use of medical devices, including contact lenses, while discussing advancements in technology to create better patient outcomes.
  3. The recognition of the inviolability of a patient’s prescription, determined through consultation between a patient and his or her doctor.
  4. Regulatory enforcement and strengthening of patient health and safety rules and laws.

The panel will be moderated by Alliance Chair Deanna Alexander, O.D. The panelists will include:

  • Michele L. Andrews, OD – CooperVision, Senior Director, North America Professional and Academic Affairs
  • Carol L. Alexander, OD – Johnson & Johnson Vision, Director, Professional Education and Development
  • Jeff Sonsino, OD – American Optometric Association, Past- President of Contact Lens & Cornea Section; Private Practice, Nashville, TN

Congressional briefing details are as follows:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Noon: Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety holds Congressional Briefing on Safety of Contact Lenses as Regulated Medical Devices

The Rayburn House Office Building – Room 2247
45 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.

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APS Comments on Proposed FTC Rule

The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (“APS”) submits these comments in response to the above-referenced announced workshop and comment period to discuss competition in the contact lens market. With the announcement, the Commission requested comments from the public for purposes of reviewing the Contact Lens Rule as part of its 10-year review process.

APS is comprised of health care providers, medical device manufacturers, vision insurers and other organizations that support the need for heightened awareness regarding pressing threats to a patient’s health and safety. We recognize the need to educate consumers about the safety risks involved in wearing contact lenses. Our mission is to build awareness while advocating for enforcement of the law and other public policy solutions designed to safeguard public health. APS understands the need to provide both competition and safety in the sale of contact lenses. However, we are concerned that the FTC has not fully considered the overall safety risks associated with contact lens wear in an evolving marketplace. Our hope is that the March 7, 2018 workshop provided insight and avenues to ensure that the law is enforced without deterring technological advancements or undermining doctor-patient relationships.

When the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act was signed into law in 2004, congressional intent was to promote competition of retail sales of contact lenses while decreasing the overall cost of purchasing contact lenses. At the same time, Congress sought to ensure that new developments in the market upheld a high quality of patient eye care. Unfortunately, APS believes certain aspects of the original congressional intent have not been met. In the FTC’s Proposed Rule Concerning the Contact Lens Rule (“Proposed Rule”) issued on December 7, 2016, the FTC failed to address several fundamental problems with the current contact lens market.

Specifically, APS is very concerned with several patient-safety issues regarding excessive-quantity sales, contact lens brand substitution and out-of-date communication methods that may undermine patient safety in the prescription passive-verification process. Individually, each of these issues pose significant threats to patient eye health. In addition, we are deeply concerned about the FTC’s proposed signed acknowledgment form for every contact lens wearer that will create additional and unnecessary burdens on our nation’s eye doctors while ultimately threatening access to care. As a whole, these issues create an environment where eye health problems become more prevalent due to patients’ growing disregard for regular eye health exams and the evaluation of contact lens interaction with patients’ eyes. In addition, this approach fails to follow congressional intent as well as scientific recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). This intent and these recommendations were put in place because inappropriate use of contact lenses can lead to serious eye injury, including impaired or full loss of vision. For this reason, the proper “Standard of Care” dictates that contact lens wearers receive periodic comprehensive eye exams to determine the proper ocular response and the continuation of safe contact lens.The push to devalue the doctor-patient relationship for contact lenses will lead to more patients experiencing adverse events based on either poor hygiene practices or changes in eye physiology, ultimately leading to more vision problems for contact lens wearers and possibly more Americans losing their vision.

Excessive Quantity Limits

The Commission has already acknowledged that online consumers receive notices to purchase more contact lenses in excess of the remaining life of their prescription. The Commission acknowledged a Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., survey showing that “58% of the online consumers that were surveyed indicated that they had received an email or letter from their retailer reminding them that their prescription was expiring soon and that the majority of these consumers had ordered more lenses as a result.”

It is essential for sellers to follow the terms and intent of contact lens prescriptions. If a prescription is written for one year, then the most a seller should be allowed to sell to a consumer during the life of that prescription should be 730 lenses. This underlining premise of quantity sales is based off the original intent of the law and the rules and requirements by the FDA and the FTC related to the integrity of prescriptions. This premise is also clearly implied in the FTC’s Rule by requiring sellers only to sell lenses “in accordance with a contact lens prescription.” APS also understands that emergency situations arise where patients need a limited refill to replace ripped or lost contact lenses. Fortunately, some states have provided precedence for these situations. The Texas Department of Health clarifies that a patient may receive a two-month extension of their current contact lens prescription if their doctor determines that an emergency exists. With this in mind, APS encourages the FTC to follow their own intent, enforce limitations on excessive contact lens quantities and issue a statement indicating the Commission’s clear intent regarding this Rule while following precedence. In following precedence, the APS asks the FTC, when acting on quantity limits, to defer to the patient-doctor relationship, which should hold the final decision for any patient health care decision.

Contact Lens Brand Substitution

As with Quantity Limits, the Commission has already acknowledged the serious consequences that come from freely substituting contact lenses. Contact lenses are not commodities, but rather Class II and Class III medical devices regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers and prescribers both agree that freely substituting contact lenses could result in significant injury including corneal ulcers and impaired or full loss of vision, but also undermine consumers’ confidence in the assurance that they are always receiving the exact lenses prescribed to them by their doctor.

The Commission has already decided that “unauthorized alterations violate the Rule as currently written, and thus there is no need to amend the Rule to address this issue.” Yet, given that the FTC has stated, “it is unclear how frequently illegal substitutions are occurring, or how many sellers are engaged in this activity,” the FTC has declined to take any further action to gather evidence of illegal substitutions.

APS recommends that the FTC seek further evidence of the illegal substitution of contact lenses, and increase enforcement efforts to correct any illegal action.

Out-of-Date Methods for Passive-Verification

In the proposed rule in December 2016, the FTC took the position that updates to the methods used in the verification process were not needed “because the current regulatory framework sufficiently prohibits the use of expired prescriptions.” APS believes the current advancements in technology allow for the FTC to issue guidance on new acceptable forms of verification, (e.g. emails) and disallow outdated forms of verification, like robocalls. Many of the outdated methods currently used do not constitute “direct communication” as intended by Congress.

APS supports the passive-verification process. However, advancements in technology now allow both sellers and prescribers to keep electronic health records. FTC action to modernize its guidance around passive-verification communication while excluding antiquated technology (e.g. robocalls) would provide greater documentation and the possibility of greater oversight in the verification process. Greater oversight, understanding and documentation will ultimately create a safer and more efficient environment for contact lens wearers and the verification of their prescriptions through clearer, concise and accurate communication between the prescriber and the seller.

Signed Acknowledgment

In the FTC’s proposed rule, the Commission proposed to require a signed acknowledgment form of prescription release that would allow the patient to acknowledge receipt of their contact lens prescription. In addition, the prescriber would be required to maintain this acknowledgement form for not less than three (3) years so they may be available for inspection by the FTC.

APS understands that the proposed requirement was in response to a small number of claims that suggest that prescribers were not freely giving patients their contact lens prescription as required under the law. In fact, the FTC itself conceded that “many reports of compliance and noncompliance are anecdotal and robust empirical data is sparse.” It is our belief that the Commission’s purpose for the signed acknowledgment form was to educate consumers of their rights while also subjecting doctors to spot investigations regarding the adherence to the law. APS believes that less intrusive means can be used to educate consumers of their rights to freely receive their prescriptions while also ensuring doctors follow the law.

Signage can inform patients of their rights under the law while at the same time providing a form of communication (e.g. phone number) to report any bad actors. This form of education is less intrusive and less burdensome while arguable more informative than a signed paper acknowledgment. APS urges the Commission to consider signage or other forms of educating consumers of their rights that are less intrusive and less burdensome than a signed acknowledgment form.

Conclusion

APS is encouraged by the FTC’s interest in gathering input from doctors, contact lens manufacturers, retailers, patients and health agencies like FDA and CDC, and we look forward to furthering discussions on how to better the contact lens market. The work that has been done over the last year is extremely important to ensure updates to the Contact Lens Rule prioritizes patient health and education.

APS asks the FTC to consider carefully the patient health risks that come with excessive quantity limits and free substitution. APS also asks that the FTC consider updates to methods used in the passive-verification system to ensure direct communication is accomplished and patients receive the correct contact lens prescription. Finally, APS would ask the FTC to consider other forms of educating patients of their rights under the law rather than a signed acknowledgment form. A signed acknowledgment form is intrusive to the doctor-patient relationship and is less effective to other forms that can achieve the same objective.

APS commends the FTC for their thoughtful review of these comments on the Proposed Rule and thanks the FTC for their time and consideration.

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FTC’S Proposed Rule Still Problematic

(WASHINGTON) – Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (Alliance for Patient Safety) today released the following statement following the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) workshop entitled, “The Contact Lens Rule and the Evolving Contact Lens Marketplace.”

Doctors, contact lens manufacturers and eye care professionals from across the country today sent a clear message to the FTC: It’s time to follow the lead of other government agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, to carefully consider patient safety and the integrity of the patient’s prescription when contemplating new government regulations,” said Deanna Alexander, O.D., Chair of the Alliance for Patient Safety. “As it currently stands, the FTC’s proposed rule will only increase burdens on small businesses and doctors, which will ultimately strain patient access, and allow for undermining the integrity of the prescription. Simply put, it’s a solution in search of a problem.”

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For media inquiries, contact mediatoday@patientsafetytoday.com

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