APS welcomes Alcon, reflects on year of advocacy successes

December 1, 2020
The advocacy collaborative fighting for patient safety and the doctor-patient relationship reports on a productive 2020, despite COVID-19 challenges, and recently welcomed Alcon as its newest member.
Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS)

Despite a challenging year amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS) served as an advocacy force in contact lens and patient safety debates, en route to gaining new support from a global eye care leader.

On Dec. 1, the APS announced Alcon joined the alliance as an Associate Partner alongside CooperVision and Leadership Partners Johnson & Johnson Vision and the AOA. The APS, which promotes patient safety and the doctor-patient relationship, is a collaborative of leading health care advocates, vision innovators and treatment specialists who work toward supporting personalized health care decision-making, the responsible use of patient care technologies, the inviolability of patients’ contact lens prescriptions, the enforcement of patient safety laws and regulations, and building awareness about such issues of patient care.

“APS partners and patient safety advocates are excited to have Alcon join our effort to advance patient safety and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, which is the foundation of personalized health care,” says Deanna Alexander, O.D., APS chair. “As a leader in vision health and eye care, Alcon’s voice will be instrumental in our effort to advance policies that surround patient safety.”

Adds Rick Weisbarth, O.D., vice president of professional affairs for Alcon U.S. Vision Care and representative to the APS: “Alcon is pleased to join APS in our common goal to enhance policies that protect patients’ vision safety. Together with fellow APS members and dedicated health care providers across the country, Alcon is committed to working collaboratively with policymakers to promote the safe, healthy and effective use of medical devices to improve patient health outcomes.”

Year in review

Alcon’s addition at the associate level not only bolsters the already strong standing of the alliance at a critical time but also comes as the APS delivers its year-end report for 2020, detailing the advocate’s constant refrain in policy and regulatory discussions involving contact lenses.

At the outset of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the APS worked critically to counter online misinformation regarding the safety of contact lenses and worked to uphold important patient safety laws regarding contact lens prescriptions. In Maine, a proposal to extend prescription length to three years, thereby driving down utilization of necessary comprehensive eye examinations, drew the APS’ immediate response and direction to state affiliates, while in Georgia, an online retailer coalition proposed removing laws that limit online eye exams in the state. Ultimately, neither proposal, both steps backward for patient safety, was enacted.

In Washington, D.C., the APS reported successes with several patient safety and contact lens bills, notably the Contact Lens Prescription Modernization Act and the newly introduced Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act. While the former bill gained 47 cosponsors in the U.S. House over this time last year, in part due to concerted efforts to educate lawmakers and staff about the issues impacting optometry and patients, the latter bill came in response to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) decision to implement Contact Lens Rule changes that impose heavy burdens on contact lens prescribers without adequately addressing issues of enforcement among online retailers.

The APS launched a strategic media campaign promoting the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act in the U.S. Senate to garner widespread attention and gain bipartisan support. Soon after, APS earned support from the National Consumers League, which published an article supporting the APS-backed policies and calling on Congress to update the rules governing the contact lens industry.

Additionally, the APS has advocated for new anti-counterfeit legislation via the Senate’s HELP Committee that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to destroy small-package, counterfeit medical devices—such as contact lenses—at ports of entry. The legislation would prevent fake, untested, unapproved and potentially dangerous products from entering the U.S. marketplace.

All the while, the APS has worked to keep up a virtual presence despite event cancellations due to COVID-19, including at the Virtual AOA on Capitol Hill, the #AskAOA FTC Rule Update webinar and the American Public Health Association Vision Care Section business meeting, as well as partnering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on safety messages during Contact Lens Health Week.

These successes come as Dr. Alexander announces she will transition out of her role as APS chair, a role she has held since the alliance’s founding in 2018, and into the AOA’s Federal Relations Committee.

“Since being established three years ago, the APS has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of patient safety,” Dr. Alexander says. “I am very fortunate to have been a part of this collective effort and look forward to the APS’ continued future success.”

To become a local advocate or to get involved in protecting patient safety, visit APS’ website.

Make the leaderboard

Take a stand for patient safety and the doctor-patient relationship and be counted among the ranks of optometry’s advocates leading by example. The APS’ new Advocate Leaderboard is a friendly, intraprofessional competition to see who can earn the most “advocacy points” as advocates climb the chart, working to build momentum behind priority issues.

Join the competition today and begin earning points by educating yourself on issues affecting the profession and advocating for legislation that can help protect patients and the doctor-patient relationship.

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