Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, on Feb. 23, signed into law a bill that allows optometrists and ophthalmologists to see patients and issue optical prescriptions via telemedicine.
“For the purpose of a provider prescribing spectacles, eyeglasses, lenses or contact lenses to a patient, a provider shall establish a bona fide provider-patient relationship by an examination in person; through face-to-face interactive, two-way, real-time communication; or store and forward technologies,” according to HB 1497 and SB 1321.
The provider must obtain an updated medical history and diagnosis at the time of prescribing, the ophthalmic prescription must not be determined solely by an online questionnaire, and the provider must be actively licensed in the commonwealth and authorized to prescribe, among other requirements.
This bill applies only to prescriptions written after July 1, 2017.
“When refractions are provided by telemedicine, there will be eye doctors providing them who will be licensed in Virginia and adhere to our standard of care, and a doctor must be involved in that process and they must follow the same standards as if that were happening in-office,” Bruce B. Keeney Sr., chief legislative counsel, Virginia Optometric Association, said in an interview with Primary Care Optometry News.
“They must be following the standard of care. We recognize that telemedicine is going to increase in its use, and with this bill we want to make sure, at least in refractions and in determining an ophthalmic prescription, that there will still be adherence to the same quality of care and standards as if the services were in-office,” Keeney continued.
The legislation adds into the Virginia code that only an optometrist and ophthalmologist are legally authorized to write an ophthalmic prescription, he said.
“The standard of care for optometry in Virginia is pretty straightforward and very patient-oriented ... I think the question is going to be whether or not one can rely on the judicial process to make sure that the ophthalmologists comply,” Keeney added. “We have not found any optometrists participating in this venture.
“The days of a patient filling out a questionnaire and looking at a few lines on a computer screen, and then 24 hours later, an ophthalmologist allegedly looking at the information is not sufficient. That will not be allowed come July 1,” he continued.
Keeney added that the objective is not to get rid of telemedicine. “We are embracing it,” he said. “We just want it done the right way.” – by Abigail Sutton
- For more information:
- Bruce B. Keeney Sr., chief legislative counsel, Virginia Optometric Association, can be reached at: (804) 643-0309.