• Academy Notebook

    News, Tips, Resources

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    One Year of Academy COVID-19 Updates

    On April 16, 2020, the Academy emailed its members the first “COVID-19 Updates” newsletter. To help ophthalmolo­gists navigate the pandemic’s challenges, the newsletter provided the newest information from the Academy about clinical research, practice management and financial issues, and implementa­tion of telemedicine. That first email included initial results from a series of pulse surveys intended to reveal the pandemic’s effect on ophthalmology practices, an invitation to attend a relief grants webinar, and a formal intro­duction to the Academy’s COVID-19 resource page (aao.org/coronavirus), which had launched in late January.

    The Academy later phased out the dedicated newsletter and incorpo­rated the “COVID-19 Updates” into the weekly Academy Express newslet­ter. These updates continue to be an important way for members to learn about the latest pandemic news and resources from the Academy, including patient education and guidance for running your practice safely.

    For COVID-19 news, watch for the “COVID-19 Updates” in Academy Express every Wednesday and go to aao.org/coronavirus for complete coverage.


    Support Academy Programs

    A donor advised fund, which is like a charitable savings account, gives you the flexibility to recommend how much and how often you grant money to the Academy Foundation and other qualified charities. It’s an efficient way to make an immediate impact on the success of Academy programs, such as the Ophthalmic Education Fund/ONE Network or the Minority Ophthalmol­ogy Mentoring program.

    Learn more at aao.org/daf.

    Volunteer Opportunity: Write for Practice Manage­ment Express

    The American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives (AAOE), the Academy’s practice management affiliate, wel­comes new writers for its weekly newsletter. Practice Management Express offers information on run­ning a successful ophthalmic practice. Write a 500- to 800-word article that focuses on providing strategies, tips, and other resources that members can immediately implement in their practices. Story topics include alternate revenue sources, business operations, coding and reimbursement, the Mer­it-Based Incentive Payment System, risk management, personal growth, and more. Before you start writing, contact the AAOE program manager to discuss your proposed topic.

    Learn how to get started by visiting aao.org/volunteering and choosing “Write.” (This is just one of many Acad­emy volunteer opportunities.)

    Ask the Ethicist: Reporting Suspected Medicare Fraud

    Q: I have performed second opinion exams on several patients of a local ophthalmologist. The patients’ main complaints appear to be blurry vision caused by cataracts; however, these patients have all been told that they have glaucoma and are scheduled for combined cataract extraction with iStent implantation. My exams indi­cate normal or near normal nerve fiber layers and cupping. None of the patients have been started on drops or have recorded high IOPs. I think the planned glaucoma surgery may be fraudulent. I don’t want to say anything negative to the patients, but should I report my suspicions elsewhere?

    A: Yes, Medicare/Medicaid fraud is not a victimless crime; fraud raises health care costs for everyone, and un­necessary surgery victimizes patients. Unnecessary surgery and misrepresen­tation of services are serious ethical violations. While you might want to avoid negative statements about a colleague, it is important to give patients your honest opinion on what you believe is in their best interests. You may want to tell patients that while you agree that they will likely benefit from cataract surgery, the need for an iStent in their case is less clear-cut.

    Health care fraud is a deliberate deception or misrepresentation of services that results in an unauthorized reimbursement. Health care abuse refers to practices that are inconsistent with accepted medical, business, or fiscal practices.

    You can report suspected Medicare fraud in any of these ways:

    • call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227);
    • report online to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/report-fraud; or
    • call the OIG at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

    Many states have “duty to report” regulations, requiring physicians to report fraud related to state insurance programs. Be responsible and educate yourself about your state’s require­ments. For issues related to state regula­tions, consider reporting your concerns to your state’s Office of the Attorney General.

    If you have concerns about your li­ability or protections, seek professional legal counsel. Your malpractice carrier may be able to provide advice as well.

    To read the Code of Ethics in full, visit aao.org/ethics-detail/code-of-ethics.

    To submit a question, email ethics@aao.org.

    OMIC: Volunteering for Vaccination Efforts?

    Some ophthalmologists have expressed interest in contributing to the nation­wide COVID-19 vaccination effort, either by volunteering to administer the vaccine in their communities or by making the vaccine available to their patients and staff. Vaccination services are complex and can be challenging for physicians who do not customarily vaccinate patients. Some challenges are logistical, and others can impact patient safety and increase physician liability exposure.

    The Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company (OMIC) has been carefully monitoring this situation since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved. Although the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act provides liability immunity, it is not unlimited. Vaccination services may still result in lawsuits or claims. OMIC is extending coverage to its insureds for the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations. Ask your risk management company about your liability and whether it provides coverage.

    View OMIC’s risk management recom­mendations and consent form at www.omic.com/covid-19-vaccine-risk-management-considerations-and-consent.

    OMIC offers profes­sional liability insurance exclusively to Academy members, their employees, and their practices.


    Need Help Moving to EHR?

    The Academy’s senior practice man­agement consultants can ensure that your practice has a successful transition from paper to electronic health records (EHR), or from one EHR system to another. Schedule consultations with experienced and respected Academy experts for assistance with EHR and practice management system conver­sions and upgrades, including workflow development and training.  

    Learn more at aao.org/consulting.

    Improve Your Sleep for Better Overall Wellness

    This month, the Academy wellness pages highlight tips and resources for better sleep. Quality sleep is necessary not only for your health and well-be­ing, but also for your ability to perform on the job. An ongoing sleep deficit can raise your risk of chronic health problems and can affect your ability to think, react, and relate to others. A vari­ety of factors may affect one’s ability to sleep well. The Academy will discuss a wide range of solutions for these issues throughout April.

    Learn more about better sleep and other wellness tips at aao.org/wellness.

    Access the Focal Points Digital Library for Free 

    Focal Points is now a free member ben­efit. The digital archive with 120+ clin­ical modules is accessible through the Academy’s ONE Network. Each digital issue can help you apply research find­ings into your daily practice. The 2019 and 2020 modules also in­clude audio files, so you can listen on your smart­phone, tablet, or com­puter. Valuable topics include recent glaucoma treatments, retina-relat­ed research, and best prac­tices for the use of optical coherence tomography. 

    Review this member benefit at aao.org/focalpoints today.


    Attend Mid-Year Forum 2021 Virtually

    Mid-Year Forum is one of the Acade­my’s most significant yearly meetings, bringing the ophthalmology commu­nity together to discuss politics, policy, and practice management. This year’s meeting will be held virtually April 23 and 24 with two half-day sessions. Participation is open and free of charge to all Academy and AAOE members.

    Keynote speaker. Don’t miss a con­versation between Academy President Tamara R. Foun­tain, MD, and this year’s keynote speaker, Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH. Dr. Christakis is a New York Times bestselling author. He will discuss his new book, Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live.

    Register for the 2021 Mid-Year Forum at aao.org/myf.

    Attend the 2021 Ophthalmology Business Summit

    Join business experts and Academy lead-ers for the 2021 Ophthalmology Busi­ness Summit (Live Online) on May 22.

    The ophthalmic practice landscape is being reshaped by COVID-19 in ways that require new business thinking and enhanced leadership. Developed with program director Robert Melendez, MD, along with the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives, the virtu­al four-hour summit will provide an engaging, highly interactive program for physician leaders and practice administrators that focuses on build­ing a thriving and resilient practice. Physician leaders and practice administrators who attend as a team will realize the most benefit.

    For more information, visit aao.org/business-summit.

    Don’t Miss the April 13 Abstract Deadline

    Paper/poster and video abstracts for AAO 2021 are due by April 13. Lend your expertise to help shape the world’s most comprehensive ophthalmology meeting.

    For more information, visit aao.org/presentercentral.

    AAO 2021: Program Preview

    Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PhD, will deliver the 78th Edward Jackson Memo­rial Lecture, titled “Molecular Diagnostics for Ocular Infectious Diseases,” during the AAO 2021 Opening Session. This session will take place the eve­ning of Friday, Nov. 12, in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

    Dr. Van Gelder, a former president of the Academy, is a clinician-scientist and teacher. He is the Boyd K. Bucey Memorial Chair, professor, and de­partment chair in the University of Washington Medical School Depart­ment of Ophthalmology. His labora­tory has been at the forefront of two fields, nonvisual photoreception and pathogen detection in uveitis.

    He has acted as a reviewer and editorial board member for several publications—including Ophthalmol­ogy—and is also active in numerous other organizations and boards. He is a member of the NIH’s Council of Councils, the National Advisory Eye Council, and the advisory committee for the NEI Audacious Goals Initiative.

    Watch for more news in the coming months at aao.org/2021. Full program information will be available June 16.

    Registration and Hotel Reservations Coming Soon

    Academy and AAOE members: Mark your calendar to register for AAO 2021 and reserve hotel rooms starting June 16. Registration and hotel reservations open July 7 for nonmembers.

    Be alert! Fraudulent companies pretending to be associated with the Academy and AAO 2021 may appear in web searches or may contact you via email. These companies claim that they can book hotel rooms or register you for the Academy’s annual meeting, but they are not affiliated with the Acade­my. Only book hotel rooms and regis­tration through the Academy’s website, aao.org/2021.

    If you are ever in doubt, email meetings@aao.org or call 1-415-561-8500 to confirm before reserving a hotel room or registering.


    Academy’s Federal Agenda Driven by Fair Payment, Access to Care

    The Academy’s 2021 federal health policy agenda is guided by Academy principles and by concerns regarding sustainability of medical practices while continuing the delivery of high-quality accessible care.

    Following are the Academy’s top issues:

    Medicare payment reform. The Academy will continue to advocate to prevent or soften any new 2022 payment cut with the expiration of the temporary 3.75% increase for 2021. The Academy will build on the major win in 2020 that mitigated the Medicare cuts for this year.

    Payment boost for global surgical codes. The Academy will push to apply the evaluation and management (E/M) payment boost to the post-op visits in the global surgical codes.

    Patient access to Medicare Part B drugs. The Academy will advocate to reverse CMS’ decision to allow Medicare Advantage Plans to impose step therapy requirements and to reduce other obstacles to medically necessary Part B–covered drugs.

    Fair reimbursement for Medicare Part B drugs. As the Biden adminis­tration considers reform of Part B drug payments, the Academy will work to preserve access for patients and ensure that physicians are kept whole and treated fairly.

    Drug shortages and price spikes. The Academy will continue to seek opportunities under the current administration and Congress for solutions to address drug shortages and spiking Part D drug prices.

    For the latest advocacy news, visit aao.org/advocacy.