WASHINGTON, April 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 400 eye physicians and surgeons representing the American Academy of Ophthalmology are in Washington, D.C., to engage Congress on key issues affecting the care of millions of Americans suffering from eye diseases. The ophthalmologists will visit the offices of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and all 100 members of the Senate to make their patients' voices heard on several critical issues that impact the quality of care they are able to receive.
The Academy is the leading voice for the profession of ophthalmology in Washington. The organization takes an active role in working with Congress and government agencies on policy issues that affect how medical and surgical eye care is provided in the United States. While in the nation's capital this week, Academy member physicians will work to secure new protections for eye care consumers and access to sight-saving medications, while seeking necessary funding for vision research to drive future innovative treatments.
"Each year, the Academy works on behalf of our patients and our profession to inform our leaders in Congress of the emerging issues that put quality eye care at risk," said David W. Parke II, M.D., CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "We count on a strong partnership with our nation's public servants to develop innovative, bipartisan solutions that help to protect sight and empower lives of the patients we serve. By coming to Capitol Hill each year, we ensure that a strong, unified physician voice is informing critical decisions about eye health."
Among the key issues ophthalmologists are discussing with Congress today and on an ongoing basis are:
Protecting contact lens consumers
The Academy supports the Contact Lens Consumer Health Act, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD, R-La. This legislation would protect contact lens consumers and eye care providers from harmful business tactics. It would facilitate a prescriber's ability to verify and correct patient prescriptions. Additionally, it would put an end to contact lens vendors falsely advertising their ability to sell contact lenses without a prescription.
Increasing funding for military and federal vision research programs
With more than 50 million Americans expected to experience significant eye disease[i] by the year 2020, the Academy is leading the call for more research dollars to be dedicated to the pursuit of new treatments to preserve the sight of these patients. The Academy is a proponent of the Department of Defense's groundbreaking program to advance medicine's knowledge of the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic eye injuries, including penetrating eye injuries, brain injury-related visual dysfunction and vision rehabilitation. The gains made under this program have broad application beyond the military, informing how ophthalmologists care for all patients.
The Academy is also asking Congress to support greater funding levels for federal research led by the National Institutes of Health and National Eye Institute.
Preserving access to ophthalmologists for Medicare patients
Access to care is critical for nearly three million Americans living with glaucoma and the many people who require emergency surgery for retinal detachment. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently enacted dramatic cuts that may limit the availability of these services and timely treatment in some areas. The Academy is asking Congress to help limit these cuts and preserve patient access to care.
Ensuring electronic health records are easy for physicians to use to achieve Medicare's goal of improved patient outcomes
As electronic health records become more integrated in patient care, the Academy believes that it is important that they work efficiently for Medicare physicians and patients. Any requirements for the use of electronic health records must not prevent physicians from focusing their energies on their patients. Congress has the ability to develop policies that will facilitate physicians' ability to analyze and share data with other health care providers. This is expected to enable the promise of health care information technology as a powerful tool for facilitating better patient outcomes.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
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SOURCE American Academy of Ophthalmology