Over the next 15-20 years, the expanded use of technology will significantly alter the traditional role of optometrists. Large corporations with advanced technology and sophisticated marketing will dominate the multi-billion dollar eye care market. With expanded commercialization, the traditional role of the optometric practitioner will be diminished, and the professional standing of optometry threatened.
Fortunately, with unmet medical eye care needs in most areas of the country, an opportunity for optometrists to become primarily medical eye care practitioners has emerged. Leaders in optometric education, and the profession of optometry’s leadership must act now in an comprehensive and coordinated manner to properly transform optometrists into medical eye providers.
I present the following recommendations as a blueprint for the future. Thoughtful planning and timely action by ASCO, AAO, NBEO, State Societies, ARBO and the AOA are essential to the transformation of the profession of optometry, and to ensure optometry’s standing as a major health care profession.
Schools and Colleges of Optometry Must Lead the Profession
1. ASCO must follow the example of academic medicine, and proactively lead the Profession. Schools and colleges of optometry must revise their basic curriculum and adopt the medical postgraduate clinical training model. The Future of Optometric Education – Opportunities and Challenges
2. There must be a significant expansion of postgraduate/residency programs in medical eye care. Current programs: ORMatch Participating Programs
3. Optometry specialties/subspecialties terminology and qualifications clarified and additional certification boards established. The State of Optometry Specialties and Subspecialties
4. A recognized and credible Specialty Certification Board in Medical Optometry has been established, and is essential to the verification and recognition of medical treatment credentials for optometrists. The American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry (ABCMO)
5. With a medical postgraduate clinical training model in place, optometry should qualify for inclusion in the Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program. Changes Necessary to Include Optometry in the Graduate Medical Education Program (GME)
State Optometric Societies and State Optometry Regulatory Boards
6. State optometry practice laws amended to authorize comprehensive medical treatment of the eye and adnexa, clinical procedures and prescriptive authority for optometrists. Expanded scope of practice precedents have been established in most states, however, all states must permit comprehensive medical treatment without restrictions.
7. State Optometry Regulatory Boards to require one year of accredited postgraduate clinical training (residency) in medical eye care for licensure. See: Required Postgraduate Clinical Training for Optometry License
Mandatory postgraduate clinical training in medical eye care followed by Board Certification should convince State/Federal officials and legislators that optometrists are thoroughly prepared to comprehensively treat eye disease without restrictions.
AOA/State Societies: Optometry Advocacy
8. Medical services provided by optometrists recognized by third party payers. This will require persistent monitoring by optometry advocacy groups.
ASCO, AOA and related organizations should initiate discussions among their respective members regarding the transformation of optometry from traditional practice to medical eye care.