FRANKFORT, Ky.—In the Kentucky legislature, the House has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require online eye exams and prescriptions to include real-time interaction with a Kentucky-licensed eyecare provider. The proposed legislation, which passed the House with a 90-7 vote margin earlier this month, “creates basic consumer protection for Kentuckians who go online for eyecare,” the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA) said in a statement. A committee in the House had debated this legislation, House Bill 191 HB 191(BR-484) as proposed by Rep. Jim Gooch Jr. (R-Providence), as VMAIL reported.  

As revised following the debate, House Bill 191 “ensures that the use of technology for eyecare would provide reasonable standards and consumer protections,” according to the KOA statement.

Kentucky has no standards at this time “that address online technology for glasses and contacts, which are classified by the FDA as medical devices,” KOA noted.

“By promoting the use of technology with reasonable standards, House Bill 191 provides consumers the same rights and protections as if they received the prescription from a visit with their doctor,” Ben Gaddie, OD, a Louisville optometrist and KOA legislative liaison, explained. “It establishes reasonable standards to protect consumers, while still permitting the use of technology when appropriate.”

The main elements of HB 191, which has now moved to the state Senate for consideration, according to KOA are:

• Simultaneous interaction with a doctor is required. The real-time exchange of information with the consumer reduces the risk that medical conditions will be missed or that treatment will be delayed. It also helps verify accuracy, as well as the identity of the patient. Consumer-driven information alone should not provide prescriptions for glasses or contacts.
• The consumer is assured that the provider assessing his or her information is a licensed Kentucky provider. This requirement ensures that, if necessary, Kentucky has jurisdiction and accountability of the provider—as well as the technology.
• The same registration standards and the same technology standards will apply for a glasses prescription as those that currently exist for a contact lens prescription.

• In-person eye examination every two years would be required as a requisite for prescriptions.

In a position paper, the KOA further clarified that HB 191 “does not ban technology or prevent e-commerce. Other states have put a mandatory in-person exam requirement for all prescriptions, or completely banned the technology. HB 191 permits an individual to get a prescription online. It does not impact technology access for Kentuckians. HB 191 does not limit where an individual can purchase contact lenses or glasses.

Addressing the bill’s requirement for a “simultaneous interaction requirement,” KOA acknowledged that some online companies and some providers “do not believe the real-time exchange of information is necessary. The technology addressed by HB 191 relies on information that is consumer-driven. For example, a hand-held phone that takes a ‘vision test.’ The provider must be able to review the submitted information in real-time format, ask follow-up questions if needed, and at least verify the identity of the patient,” KOA noted in its position paper.