Innovation is the foundation of growth. As innovation spreads to the physical industries, the result is higher wages, lower costs, and a more dynamic economy, as we showed in our recent report, The Coming Productivity Boom.
But innovation in physical industries has proceeded slower than we might have wanted, In part, that’s because promising technologies are being hindered at the state and local level. Consider the humble eye refraction. Some companies are rolling out technologies that enable ordinary people to do eye refractions remotely, using computers or smartphones. Such a technology has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of updating and renewing contact lens prescriptions, while enabling people to check their eyes more often.
Unfortunately, in Connecticut, the state legislature is now considering a bill that would undercut the use of remote eye refractions. The bill says, in part:
No provider shall issue an initial prescription to or renew an initial prescription for a patient without having performed an in-person evaluation and an eye examination of the patient.
In other words, everyone has to make an expensive and time-consuming in-person trip to an eye doctor to get a prescription renewal for contact lens, even if the remote refraction says no change. This requirement could be especially costly in Connecticut, where optometrists make $192,870 per year on average, the highest in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* Indeed, Connecticut is the only state where optometrists make more than family and general practitioners, based on BLS data.
Remote refraction can and should never replace in-person visits to optometrists and ophthalmologists. But in a world where health care costs are increasingly squeezed, it seems silly and downright embarrassing for a forward-looking state like Connecticut to inhibit a technology that could make people better off at a lower cost.
*These figures are based on the May 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics from the BLS. See this page for a list of top-paying states for optometrists. This data does not cover self-employed workers.