Outgoing AOA president: Advocate for the doctor-patient relationship
WASHINGTON – “Optometry has made amazing progress due to the incredible advocacy work our members do in each of our states and here in D.C.,” Andrea P. Thau, OD, outgoing American Optometric Association president, told the AOA House of Delegates here at Optometry’s Meeting.
“How can you further our efforts?” she asked. “You are making a difference by being here. Advocate with your representatives. Donate to the AOA-Political Action Committee. And encourage your members to join in. There is no better time than now for doctors and students to make sure that our frontline and expanding role are understood and that our priorities, focused on protecting the doctor-patient relationship, are front and center.”
Thau said the AOA is fighting organized medicine’s and ophthalmology’s Medicare exclusion agenda to “safeguard full physician recognition and inclusion in all physician-level programs. We are upholding existing laws that assure access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, including essential pediatric eye health coverage, and a ban on discrimination by ERISA and other plans.”
The AOA backed the bi-partisan Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (HR 1606), which “confronts anti-patient, anticompetitive abuses of health and vision plans,” Thau said.
The group has fought online vision tests “whose claims may delay patients from seeking out timely, comprehensive eye care,” she added.
“We continue to urge officials to oppose the harmful Federal Trade Commission proposal that would impose new paperwork burdens on doctors and patients while not addressing the predatory practices of some online contact lens sellers that have the potential to harm patients and increase health care costs,” she continued.
The AOA is also backing legislation that would force online contact lens retailers to follow patient safeguards and eliminate “robo calls,” Thau said.
AOA volunteers were involved in creating the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine (NASEM), “Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow.”
“This report set a clear path toward improving eye health across the country and elevates the importance of efforts by doctors of optometry to expand clinical eye care services and access to regular, in-person comprehensive eye examinations for everyone,” Thau said.
The AOA developed evidence-based guidelines aligning with the principles in the NASEM report in the hopes of expanding access to comprehensive eye exams for children.
The association is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a surveillance system to increase an understanding of eye health in the U.S., and optometry’s registry, AOA More, will play a role, she said.
“Today we have surpassed the 6,500 mark for doctors of optometry enrolled in AOA More,” she said.
AOA More is also designed to make it easier for optometrists to succeed in the PQRS system, Thau noted.
The AOA supports the Think About Your Eyes program, which drove 1.5 million additional patients in for eye exams in 2016. An important goal of the association is to advocate for comprehensive exams and educate the public on what optometrists can provide.
“Increasing awareness isn’t just media, but engaging with the right stakeholders and audiences,” Thau said. “I did this when I traveled to Suzhou, China, to talk about the AOA and optometry in the U.S. I reached 600,000 U.S. postal workers on the importance of eye health in a video that was aired in their breakrooms.”
Thau recognized all affiliates and representatives in the room and the AOA staff and volunteers.
“Because the profession of optometry has the leadership represented by those in this room, we’ve been able to accomplish so much together,” she concluded. – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO