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  • Background

    Technological advances enable patients to receive a growing number of medical services without the provider having to be in the same room. From remote screenings for diabetic retinopathy to online refraction, these innovations provide new ways for patients to access eye care – especially those who live in remote areas or may not otherwise be able to see a provider. These technologies pose new challenges for both regulatory agencies and state and federal policymakers. Both the U.S. government and private payers are beginning to address coverage of telemedicine services, interstate medical licensure and laws around the use of specific technologies. 

    Academy position

    The Academy wants all patients to have access to care by qualified medical providers. We support delivery of high quality ophthalmological telemedicine as a way to improve the quality, availability and cost of ophthalmological services. The Academy is committed to:

    • Review: Physicians should determine the appropriateness of a given technology for his/her patients; state legislatures should not make these decisions.
    • Payment: Health insurers should cover and provide fair payment for telemedicine services provided by ophthalmologists.
    • Regulation: Federation of State Medical Boards oversight of multi-state physician licensure.

    The Academy supports policies aimed at validating these technologies’ value and fostering appropriate implementation. It is a method to expand the physician-patient relationship beyond the exam room. 

    What we’re doing

    The Academy’s telemedicine task force reviews current use of telemedicine in the practice of ophthalmology, as well new digital health platforms and legislative and regulatory policy in this arena. In February 2018, the task force finalized an Academy information statement on Telemedicine for Ophthalmology. The statement provided an overview of telemedicine use within ophthalmology; identified disease areas where telemedicine use is mature and proving successful; and outlined current barriers to greater adoption by the field.