Article Date: 9/1/2005

o.d. to o.d.
The Scope of Healthcare is Becoming Flatter
On a level playing field, the real winners are those who invest in expanding their scope, not those who impose restrictions.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
Chief Optometric Editor

When the American Aca-demy of Ophthalmology banned optometrists from their meeting in 2004, many of us turned to the individual ophthalmologists that we're associated with and asked, "Do you personally support the decision of the American Academy of Ophthalmology to ban optometrists from its meeting? Do you personally see me as a threat rather than a healthcare colleague?"

Of course most of the answers were something along the lines of, "Of course I don't personally feel that way. Those old, out-of-touch doctors in the academy were responsible for the ban. In fact, that's why the progressive ophthalmologists don't bother with the academy. We are members of the enlightened, forward-thinking American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ASCRS)."

ASCRS follows

What a surprise (said with my tongue firmly in cheek) that the ASCRS recently decided that we as optometrists are no longer welcome at their meeting either.

I have to admit the announcement really didn't surprise anyone (I hope). Let's be honest, did any of us — even those who have lectured at these meetings — really believe that we were ever truly welcome?

I wonder if it's time to go back and ask the aforementioned ophthalmologists more questions? Or is it just time to turn up the heat on ophthalmology and go beyond them rather than trying to go along with them? I also wonder whether we need to busy ourselves in the least with what ophthalmology is doing, thinking, wishing or wanting to any degree at all.

The world becomes flat

As the ASCRS made their announcement, I had just finished reading a book that I found fascinating as well as timely. In the title of his book, "The World Is Flat," Pulitzer Prize- winning author Thomas L. Friedman isn't referring to the topography of the earth. Rather, Mr. Friedman refers to the leveling of the business and commerce playing fields in our global economy as countries around the world (previously not seen as competitive) increase their capacity to compete through education, ability, a willingness to work and a determination to succeed by improving themselves.

One example that Mr. Friedman provides is the significant amount of computer software developed in India rather than in countries historically recognized as the software developers of the world.

Investment, not restriction

I believe that optometry as a profession is doing in eyecare what India is doing in the world market of software development. We are moving our profession forward through the investment of our time and talent, our interest in expanding our scope of practice as well as enjoying the satisfaction that success brings us all.

Equally important is the fact that all of us (optometrists and ophthalmologists) practice in a marketplace where today's consumer is more focused on the quality of professional eyecare and the service that they receive than which of the professions provide it.

Things are flattening in eyecare —the playing field is leveling and optometry's future is more promising than ever.



Optometric Management, Issue: September 2005