Article Date: 9/1/2001

O.D. TO O.D.
Ripe for Change?
Is it time to consider reforming our potpourri of CE requirements?
BY NEIL B. GAILMARD, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

Continuing education is vitally important in our profession. We prevent blind- ness and correct visual abnormalities, and that responsibility is so important that our license renewal should depend upon ongoing training. But after speaking to many colleagues, I think we need a change.

Why not have national standards?

The historic development of optometry laws in the 50 states is quite interesting. Each law is different, and each has evolved as scope-of-practice laws were enacted.

Depending on your state, you may need many hours of education in pre-approved topics such as eye disease and pharmacology, possibly with special requirements such as certified or transcript-quality CE. We can all live with these regulations, but it would be better if we could move toward some national standard.

Why not more courses via the Internet?

Most states have severe restrictions on the number of hours of education that you can earn via the Internet, or through journals or other self-study courses. About 20 states accept zero credits from non-classroom sources, while the remaining 30 states average about 3 credit hours per year. This is curious because in today's world you can earn a college degree online! So why can't we optometrists all have the ability to earn online CE credits?

Technology today offers amazing options and convenience, yet it seems some state boards are unaware of this. Optometry schools are positioned to develop online programs (which industry would eagerly sponsor), but these programs won't materialize if doctors can't earn enough credits via non-classroom venues.

Why not a few more hours in practice management?

I know I may be biased here, but I hear from colleagues and professional associations that there's a great interest in practice management topics. But because most states accept very few, if any, CE credit hours in this field, doctors can't pursue as many management courses as they'd like.

Certainly, the vast majority of CE credits should focus on clinical subjects. But practice management isn't just about profitability; it encompasses such subjects as record keeping, instrumentation, technology, clinical efficiency, legal issues, staffing and even patient care. Not that there's anything wrong with profitability . . . without it, our doors wouldn't stay open, and we wouldn't treat anyone.

CE credit is a powerful thing. It generates revenue for many organizations and speakers, and it drives attendance to meetings. It makes you wonder whether that slows down progress in the review of CE regulations.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2001