The established purpose of the SAO Visual Assessment Specialist Certification program is to expand the scope of delivery of visual health services by Advanced Credentialed Ophthalmic personnel in the rapidly emerging world of telemedicine. The SAO is a professional organization dedicated to advancing level practice by the most qualified credentialed Ophthalmic Professionals. A Visual Assessment Specialist will provide visual services under the auspices of a valid state licensed Ophthalmologist or Optometrist for such procedures as routine occupational visual screenings i.e., such as CDL renewals for Truck Drivers, Airline Pilots, students returning to school, rechecks for spectacle and contact lenses prescriptions, etc. These services will be delivered using the standard equipment required for performing said services in settings very much identical to the well care stations currently in use in many corporate retail pharmacy locations throughout the United States. The US Veterans Administration currently uses similar personnel at its facilities throughout the United States for veterans. The Allied Health practitioner will be certified by the SAO as a Visual Assessment Specialist with all rights and privileges appertaining thereunto such national certification. The SAO has the sole legal credentialing authority as approved by the highly respected ICE (Institute for Credentialing Excellence). Said title is under the exclusive control and jurisdiction of the SAO. The Visual Assessment Specialist will undergo a rigorous practical training regimen and robust academic examination to be granted the title of “Visual Assessment Specialist.” The title of Visual Assessment Specialist will be retained through the requirement of Continuing Education. The need for professionally trained ancillary ophthalmic medical personnel is expected to grow phenomenally, as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century with the SAO leading the way in training and credentialing.
At Vision Expo West in Las Vegas on September 21st, 2019 our current SAO President Sam Johnson and Vice-President Thomas Blair Jr announced that our society has started the steps necessary to create a NEW national level certification program "Visual Assessment Specialist".
This new certification is in the new optical field "TELEHEALTH", which is the fastest growing area of the optical industry. The certification will allow advanced credentialed Opticians and other optical industry professionals to better serve the public.
We will be offering a series of training CEs to prepare any qualified OPTICAL PROFESSIONAL to become a "Visual Assessment Specialist".
Ophthalmic Opticians are "Vision Specialists" and are the surest way for the public to get 20/20 our better vision.
Why has the SAO chosen to provide a new certification for optical industry professionals in telehealth?
Telehealth is coming on strong and is well poised for a major growth spurt in the coming years. In fact, it seems to be on track to becoming the new normal for many areas of healthcare. Here are nine big reasons that demonstrate how quickly telehealth is changing patient attitudes—and why you should be taking a new look at telehealth for your eyecare practice.
1. The consumerization of healthcare is driving historic growth. With more and more consumers seeking greater access and lower healthcare costs, a major shift is occurring in consumer acceptance of telehealth. JAMA reports that telehealth visits among the commercially insured increased by 261 percent between 2015 and 2017. And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported last year that telehealth has grown by more than 65% between 2014 and 2016.
2. More than acceptance, patients are exhibiting excitement about telehealth. In fact, according to J.D. Power, which will be publishing its first-ever Telehealth Satisfaction Study this November, “the use of telehealth as a lower-cost form of medical consultation has skyrocketed in popularity.” And it’s not just millennials who are enthusiastic about telehealth. According to recent study from American Well, 52% of Americans aged 65 years and over are willing to use telehealth—and 67% said they were open to using video visits to manage their chronic conditions.
3. AI-powered telehealth is enabling significant new benefits for patients and providers. Telehealth, once just a video connection for routine health care consultations, is now equipped to provide a superior standard of care through the use of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). As images are collected through telehealth exams, they’re immediately enhanced with AI to identify early signs of disease. New solutions available today, for example, use machine-learning algorithms to scan the retinas to gather information about patients to predict a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease and to provide quicker diagnoses of conditions like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
4. States are gradually breaking down barriers to telehealth. More states than ever have established parity laws for private insurance coverage of telemedicine. As of 2018, 34 states and Washington, D.C., had enacted parity laws—up from 12 states in 2010—and five more states were reviewing proposed legislation.
5. Medicare is beginning to provide a level of reimbursement for telehealth services beyond “rural underserved” areas. Historically, third-party reimbursement has been a major speed bump for adoption of telehealth and access to telehealth for seniors has been limited. That’s about to change. Beginning in plan year 2020, CMS will reimburse for telehealth services as part of Medicare Advantage plans. That means that seniors will have access to virtual providers as part of their basic benefit packages, so they can receive care from home or another convenient location, whether or not they live in rural areas.
6. Telehealth is helping to reduce hospital readmissions and lower costs. Readmissions are the most costly patient encounter for hospitals. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates annual costs of patient readmissions at more than $41 billion. Research in many areas is showing that telehealth, by detecting complications earlier and providing opportunities for remote monitoring and education, telehealth can significantly reduce the rate of hospital readmissions, by 83%, while lowering overall costs by more than 30%.
7. Telehealth is improving outcomes in many healthcare settings and for many applications. Telehealth is providing new avenues of access to healthcare services in many areas. By taking advantage of its ability to provide a convenient way to monitor patients, providers are helping prevent immediate issues from spiraling into more serious conditions. New platforms are helping home health services provide wound care and prevent hospital readmissions. Many states are developing platforms to help expectant parents access resources. The VA is launching a new program designed to provide veterans with access to care for type 2 diabetes. These are just a few examples of the ways that telehealth is changing the game across the healthcare spectrum.
8. Amazon and Best Buy are getting in the game. Perhaps the biggest sign of a bright future for telehealth is the fact that major U.S. companies like Best Buy and Amazon are teaming up with health systems and other partners to bring telehealth platforms directly to consumers. Stay tuned.
9. New technology will continue to improve the standard of care provided by telehealth. It’s important to note that not all telehealth solutions are the same. In the eyecare space alone, there are different offerings—from simple refractions to comprehensive eye exams—that meet or exceed the standard of care provided by in-person exams. Leveraging new and emerging technologies is the key to providing a more robust offering. The use of AI, widefield fundus cameras, digital EMR records, and wave front technology are some of the ways that new technology has enhanced the accuracy and thoroughness of comprehensive eye exams performed via telehealth. These and new technologies to come will continue to improve the standard of care provided by telehealth.
(The above article was taken from a telehealth industry providers literature)