Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

BLOG: A bump on the road to health care reform

The American Optometric Association Third Party Center recently held the webinar, “Town Hall Discussion on Health Care Reform, Rethink Eye Care, State Issues/Trends” to update the leaders of our profession on the state of meaningful use, ICD-10 and the thoughts and predictions for 2015. Here we learned that less than 4% of all eligible professionals have attested to meaningful use stage 2.

Within the optometry space, the number seems much lower. Those who have attested are concerned that they may not survive an audit, as what seemed like appropriate use of a patient portal and the ability to truly communicate across platforms may not, in fact, work or be secure.  It is not at all clear what will happen to the timing of stage 2 meaningful use, ICD-10 or the Affordable Care Act when the new Republican Congress is seated.

So, the look back over 2014 is not so bad. With our EHR, we have much better medical records. We are more attentive to our patients’ overall medical health. We are much more involved in patient education and counseling on chronic medical problems such diabetes and hypertension.

We have added new technology like the ClearPath DS 120 that allow us to test the crystalline lens for evidence of a glucose imbalance that may be the earliest predictor of diabetes. Our patients have shown an overwhelmingly positive response to our broadened scope of practice and now understand the difference between a “routine eye exam” and a holistic evaluation of their eyes and visual system as part of their overall health and wellness.

The look forward seems at least bumpy and certainly unpredictable. There is no better time to be an active participant in your state association and the AOA. We need our elected volunteers and outstanding staff to be ever vigilant of the rapid changes that lay ahead and to analyze and educate us to prepare for the future. Our state associations are monitoring the local activities of health plans and health information exchange. The AOA is monitoring the national politics and lobbying on our behalf.

EHRs are here to stay. Our industry will need to continue to move toward integration and a comprehensive system. As I have been saying all along in these blogs, health care reform is not a law, nor are EHRs, meaningful use or ICD-10. It is a long-term process that will unfold over decades. As part of the primary health care team, we must pay close attention to the laws, the politics, the technology and social opinion to plan the correct moves for our careers and our practices.