The Primary Role of Optometrists Will Evolve Into Medical Eye Care
Over the next 15 years, the expanded use of technology and ancillary staff will change the traditional role of optometrists. Large corporations with advanced technology and sophisticated online marketing will dominate the multi-billion dollar eye care products market and the provision of eyewear and contact lenses will decline in traditional optometric practice.
However, with unmet medical eye care needs in most areas of the country, a new role for optometrists as primarily medical eye care practitioners will emerge. Recognizing the public health need for medical eye care, and the shortage of ophthalmologists, Federal and state agencies and legislatures will resist political opposition and actively support the transition of traditional optometry to primarily medical eye care.
The following are necessary to complete the transition to medical eye care, and to secure Federal funding for optometry’s postgraduate clinical training programs:
- Schools and colleges of optometry to revise their basic curriculum and adopt the medical postgraduate clinical training model. The Future of Optometric Education – Opportunities and Challenges
- Expansion of postgraduate/residency programs in medical eye care. ORMatch Participating Programs
- State optometry practice laws amended to authorize comprehensive medical treatment, clinical procedures and prescriptive authority for eye conditions.
- State Optometry Regulatory Boards to require one year of accredited postgraduate clinical training (residency) in medical eye care for licensure. Required Postgraduate Clinical Training for Optometry License
- A recognized and credible Specialty Certification Board in Medical Optometry established. American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry (ABCMO)
- Optometry specialties/subspecialties terminology and qualifications clarified. The State of Optometry Specialties and Subspecialties
- With a medical postgraduate clinical training model in place, optometry should qualify for inclusion in the Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program. Social Security Act amended to include optometry in GME. Changes Necessary to Include Optometry in the Graduate Medical Education Program (GME)
- Medical services provided by optometrist to be recognized by third party payers.
I present the above observations and suggestions as a blueprint for discussion. Thoughtful planning by optometry and optometric education is essential to the long term success of the Profession.