Article Date: 6/1/2004

Of Optometry and Ophthalmology
Our June issue reveals two perspectives on the O.D.-M.D. relationship.

With the recent ban on optometrists at educational sessions of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), it's an opportune time to examine the relationship between optometry and ophthalmology.

The two O's battle

On page 12, we lead off our "Pulse" section with a news article that explains the controversy behind the AAO ban. (The ban is a response to legislation in Oklahoma that reaffirms the optometrists' right to bill for surgical codes, which ophthalmologists contested.) Chief Optometric Editor Dr. Walter D. West commented on the AAO ban last month (see "O.D. to O.D." on page three of the May issue of Optometric Management.)

The ban appears largely symbolic -- less than 50 optometrists attended the AAO meeting last year -- yet it reveals the chasm that exists between organized ophthalmology and optometry with regard to scope-of-practice issues. As the article notes, these issues aren't limited to Oklahoma.

Building bridges

While the ban and scope-of-practice disputes can be divisive, optometrists and ophthalmologists do regularly build bridges. In the case of The Eye Center in Middle Tennessee, the doctors not only built bridges, but crossed them and now work in the same merged practice.

The practice management article on page 68, "Working Together," examines the doctors' experiences with the process of building a joint-equity practice. Founded six years ago, The Eye Center has grown to include a main office and surgery center, three full-time offices and four satellite locations.

The doctors candidly admit that there were serious challenges to overcome. Typically, any of these could be a deal breaker, including a loss of independence, a new practice culture and equitable income distribution. In addition, the benefits of this investment in "blood, sweat and tears," don't always come immediately. The shared practice isn't a path for the feint of heart.

The benefits of working together

A compelling reason to consider the shared practice are the numerous improvements in patient care and practice management. The Eye Center found benefits in sophisticated facilities and equipment as well as a new office culture.

Although it's just one example of optometrists and ophthalmologists leveraging their collective expertise, the results are impressive.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2004