OP-ED | Connecticut Should Not Restrict Development of Ocular Telemedicine
Healthy eyes and good vision are essential to everyday life. Regular, daily activities such as walking, driving, reading, and using your smartphone or computer are all dependent on having good eyesight. There are many of us, however, who need the assistance of glasses and contact lenses to be able to see properly. Easy, affordable access to the glasses and contacts we rely on daily is vital.
Poor vision can be very expensive. I’ve had glasses since I was 7 years old and I estimate that I’ve probably spent $10,000 out of pocket between glasses and contacts during that time. This figure doesn’t include my insurance costs or even just the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had insurance the entire time. It’s been a cost I pay without question as it’s a necessity.
HB 6012, An Act Concerning Consumer Protection in Eye Care, is before the Connecticut Legislature this session. The bill looks to amend general statues to require the implementation of various standards of care, mandates and protections before permitting a remote or in-person eye assessment using automated equipment or an application designed to be used on a telephone, computer, or Internet-based mobile device.
This bill brings up many concerns which led me to vote against it in the Public Health Committee. I am worried about patients who do not have insurance or the ability to pay. According to the bill, in order to have good, strong vision, patients need to be going to the doctor yearly, for the option to receive an initial prescription, as well as when they seek to have their contacts renewed. I am worried about younger constituencies who may in be college or studying abroad and don’t have the option of coming back to their local doctor on a regular basis to get their prescription renewed with an in-person visit.
With 25 percent of contact lens wearers being under age 25, and with two-thirds of contact wearers nationally being women, I’m very concerned about the cost and the time for those patients in particular. I recognize the importance of preventative care, and obviously an initial exam and prescription is necessary, but as I look at the recommendations for the frequency of eye exams overall, I see that they are tiered by age range. The Mayo Clinic recommends that in your 20s and 30s your eyes be examined every 5-10 years, and then every 2-4 years after the age of 40. This certainly does not support having to get your eyes examined every year just to renew your contact lens prescription.
In addition, I’m concerned that this bill would imply that Connecticut is taking a strong stand against telemedicine. With the advent of e-commerce and new technologies, the healthcare industry is transforming and is now giving consumers greater freedom than ever before. More and more consumers are receiving their health care and health products in new ways and the Internet has been a huge asset in lowering prices, increasing access and helping working families get what they need even outside of so-called “regular” business hours. This convenience is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s world. Connecticut should not place itself at a competitive disadvantage with other states when it comes to emerging technologies and innovation in the health care sector.
In fact, no other state has a time restriction for telemedicine. Does Connecticut really want to be the first state imposing such bans, especially considering states like Virginia have passed legislation “allowing” ocular telemedicine with encouragement from their medical community and medical schools?
I feel that this bill is anti-consumer and too restrictive for patients — putting too many limitations on the access to glasses and contacts that they rely on every day. Right now, patients can leave their eye doctor’s office with a copy of their prescription, giving them the choice of how and when they will fill it. Whether it’s through their desktop computers, an app on their mobile device or tablet, through the mail, or at a discount retailer, the choice is up to the patient to decide and that’s how it should remain.
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