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August 2014 Issue

Changes to EBAA Medical Standards

The Medical Advisory Board of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) announced updates to the medical standards for their members at the last annual meeting. Highlights include:

  • Contraindicated transplant of tissue from donors with Parkinson, ALS, MS, and Alzheimer disease.
  • EBAA members must report West Nile Virus and Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease infections in all recipients regardless of whether or not it is suspected to be linked to the donor tissue.
  • Changes to standard procedures around sterile tissues without viable endothelium
  • EBAA members will report information on indications for surgery and the surgical technique used.

SightLife is accredited by the EBAA. A full summary of changes is available from the EBAA’s website.


ASC State Conferences

Look for SightLife staff at these Surgery Center Association annual meetings:

California Ambulatory Surgery Association (CASA), Sept. 3-5

Washington State Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (WASCA), Sept. 18-19

At both events, SightLife will offer an evaluation of your facility’s performance on corneal transplant coding and reimbursement.


Monty Montoya Wins EY award

SightLife President and CEO Monty Montoya was recognized in June as the Pacific Northwest Life Sciences EY Entrepreneur of the Year. He will advance to the national competition in November.

Watch Monty’s acceptance speech at the awards ceremony.


AAO Annual Meeting

Look for SightLife in booth #648 and Ocular Systems in #749 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology October 18-21. You can set up a time to visit by emailing Christina, or just drop by our booth.

We will host education sessions on DMEK, EndoSerter, and reimbursement. More information and a schedule coming soon.

femtosecond laser

Femtosecond Laser Assisted Keratoplasty (FLAK)

Femtosecond Laser Assisted Keratoplasty (FLAK) has been officially recognized in the Current Procedural Terminology nomenclature and can now be itemized on an insurance claim.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policy provides two tracking codes for preparing grafts with femtosecond lasers. A tracking code allows CMS to collect data about cost and usage of new procedures. CMS does not assign payment to tracking codes, so reimbursement is at the discretion of the insurance carrier.

FLAK claims may not reimbursed by Medicare carriers, so we recommend you have Medicare beneficiaries who opt for FLAK surgery sign an Advance Beneficiary Notice that payment for the service could be denied.

  • +0289T indicates femtosecond laser preparation of the donor graft. This code should be reported when the physician prepares tissue, not when an eye bank cuts with a femtosecond laser.
  • +0290T is used for a femtosecond laser incision in the recipient’s cornea.

These tracking codes modify the anterior lamellar (ALK) and penetrating keratoplasty (PK) CPT codes (65710, 65730, 65750, and 65755). Femtosecond endothelial graft preparation can be reported when the physician prepares the graft and 65757 (backbench preparation of graft tissue) is included on the claim.

Help Us Understand Medicaid 

Have you experienced issues with treating or getting reimbursed for treating people covered by state Medicaid insurance? Tell us your story about the challenges of working with Medicaid in Washington State or California. We are learning from patient experiences—and yours—how best to advocate for expanded access to the highest standard of care possible. Contact Aaron Hayden at or 202-596-7466.


PRODUCT FEATURE: Have you been thinking about trying the EndoSerter for your DSEK cases?

Ocular Systems, Inc. (OSI) and SightLife are offering free trials of the device for your evaluation. To find out more about the EndoSerter or read research articles comparing postoperative results, visit the physician resources page of the OSI website.

Contact us when you’re ready to try EndoSerter for an upcoming DSEK surgery.



SightLife's new online tissue request system went live earlier this year. We checked in with some of the early adopters to see how the system has improved the workflow at their facilities. Here are the top three benefits they’ve discovered using MySightLife.

“MySightLife helps keep our patient paperwork organized. There is no more matching up paper requests with patient charts. The front office has everything they need in one place.”

“Tissue requests are automatically checked for accuracy and automatically confirmed as soon as the request is submitted. Notifications to surgeons and scheduling staff ensure everyone is on the same page.”

“Our facility found it reassuring for multiple users to have access to the same information. This openness means that more people can share in the role of requesting tissue, so there are more eyes checking for errors and there is no confusion or cancellations when a coworker goes on vacation.”

Make your next corneal tissue request through MySightLife by signing up at

surgeon training

Join SightLife in building corneal surgeon capacity and capability in India

For the past five years, SightLife has worked in partnership with eye banks in India, Nepal, Ethiopia and Paraguay to increase the supply of corneal tissues to surgeons in support of our mission to eliminate corneal blindness. While lack of tissue is one of the main barriers to treating corneal blindness, the volume of patients in the developing world also requires an increase in the number of qualified corneal surgeons.waiting area

India bears one of the biggest burdens of corneal blindness in the world, with an estimated population of 1,000,000 bilaterally and 5,500,000 unilaterally blind. Approximately 23,000 transplants are completed annually by 350 surgeons, with a success rate of only 72% (compare to 89% in the developed world). To reduce the impact of corneal blindness in India, SightLife estimates that 100,000 successful transplants must be performed each year.

In September 2014, we will launch the SightLife Surgeon Training Initiative to increase the quality and quantity of corneal transplants in India by building surgeon capacity. SightLife will host three intensive skills transfer courses this fall to provide practicing corneal surgeons with hands-on training in DSEK surgical techniques, as well as ongoing coaching from the faculty following the training program. The courses are designed to improve each surgeon’s ability to diagnose indications and assign the treatment with the greatest chance of success, develop surgical skill in DSEK, and explain and demonstrate postoperative care in patients treated with DSEK.

SightLife has the honor of partnering with two of the leading ophthalmic institutions in India, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad and Dr. R.P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, Delhi, to host the 2014 courses. Next year, SightLife will work with three more institutions in India and Nepal to expand course offerings to include PK and DALK, as well as training for general ophthalmologists in follow-up care for corneal patients.

The Surgeon Training Initiative was created by corneal surgeons committed to eliminating corneal blindness and we need your engagement to make it a success. Here’s how you can support our work: surgeon at work

  • Apply to be a visiting faculty member for one of the upcoming skills transfer programs in 2015
  • Serve as a virtual mentor for a corneal surgeon in the developing world
  • Develop and refine curriculum for courses
  • Apply to serve as a host institution for the training program (must be located in the developing world)
  • Recommend surgeons you know to participate in the courses (must practice in the developing world)
  • Support our work with a donation
  • Request email updates on SightLife’s Surgeon Training Initiative

For more information or to get involved, please contact Josie Noah, Director, Global Surgeon Training Programs, at or +1-781-258-8122.


Cornea Recipient Sees That It’s All in the Details

There are many things that a cornea recipient is excited to see again—or for the first time—after a transplant.  Brandon Gregory wanted to go to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and enjoy the view.

SightLife joined Brandon on his journey to the top. He stood in awe after stepping out onto the observation deck. He could see details—the cars on the street, the boats in the water and individual windows on the buildings. He stopped to admire UW Husky stadium. He can’t wait to watch his beloved college football team play again.

Brandon’s next stop was SightLife’s Seattle headquarters. He went on a tour of the office and lab and met all of the employees who were involved in his cornea’s journey. From Jevon, who placed the phone call to the donor’s family, to Mimi, who examined the cornea under the slit lamp. It was truly a team effort to deliver the gift of sight to Brandon, and he felt the energy that it takes to make it all happen.

“I don’t think I could have imagined how rigorous the process is. It was great to be able to hear from the people who worked on the cornea I have and see they enjoy what they do,” said Brandon. “It has been a fantastic experience to meet everyone, to share my story with them, and hear about their background and passion. They’re making an impact—an impact has been made in my life—and it makes me want to make an impact as well.”

Dr. Bryan Lee M.D., J.D. of the University of Washington performed Brandon’s transplant and is pleased that he is doing well. “I've been very impressed by the interest Brandon has shown in the tissue donation process, and he's told me how meaningful it has been for him to meet with donor families,” said Dr. Lee. “Families who donate their loved one's organs are giving an incredible gift and are showing such consideration for others at a time of personal grief and loss. I hope they know that they are transforming patients' lives, and as a surgeon, I am always deeply appreciative.”

Watch the video below to learn more about Brandon’s experience. 


Recommended Reading: Deadline set for ICD-10 adoption

The U.S. Department of health and Human Services issued a ruling in late July that rescheduled the deadline for providers to begin using the International Classification of Diseases Rev. 10 (ICD-10) standard. ICD-10 will provide CMS with more granular data about the diseases affecting the patients they cover, but has implementation has been challenging for many practices. Read more »


Recommended Reading: New research on cornea regeneration

Researchers in Boston have identified a surface marker in limbal stem cells, allowing them to tag and transplant limbal cells that have resulted in regenerated corneal tissue in mice. Read more »


Recommended Reading: How closely does a DMEK-rebuilt eye resemble a natural, healthy eye?

Physicians at the Melles Clinic examined the fused Descemet’s membrane of a corneal transplant recipient after death. The individual had undergone a successful DMEK procedure three years earlier. Read more »


Recommended Reading: Rethinking the link between diabetes and keratoconus

Researchers at Wills Eye Hospital have demonstrated a link between type 2 diabetes mellitus and keratoconus. Read more »


Recommended Reading: CMS proposes rule governing payments for 2015

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is requesting feedback on the updated rules governing payment policies for the next year. The American Academy of Ophthalmology published a good analysis of how the payment rates are proposed to change for 2015, including how CMS plans to correct for historical overpayment, how incentives will be structured for facilities to report quality indicators with their claims, and how some global surgery periods will be eliminated, which may affect your postoperative follow-up visits. Read more »