Several weeks ago, the legislation period opened in many states. Optometrists all over the country are advocating different bills to expand the scope of optometry, protect rights of optometrists and different patient policies. This is a necessary requirement of our industry if ODs are going to remain relevant in the dynamic healthcare system. Optometry schools, along with national and state associations, teach the importance of advocacy and the history behind the profession. However, not all optometrists remain involved with advocacy upon graduation. If the profession is to remain strong, it requires all of us to play our part donating resources to keep our concerns heard by stateside and nationally.
It was not long ago when optometrists only could prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, conducting examinations without the use of dilating drops. In 1987, optometrists were classified as physicians under Medicare and scope quickly changed across states to provide both comprehensive optical and medical eye care. Today, some states are advocating therapeutic procedures with lasers, surgical removal of superficial "lumps and bumps," while some are legislating for more simple things such as independent treatment of glaucoma. This variation of optometric scope not only causes confusion to patients, but also with other fellow primary care physicians and health professionals. Additionally, this creates an unbalanced distribution of healthcare professionals throughout the country where ultimately patients may not have access to adequate health and eye care.
State and national policy affects healthcare stakeholders including patients, providers and payers. The role of state and federal government is the crux of divisive discussions of how to reduce the cost of care and to strengthen the relationship between physician and patients. But somehow these discussions do not exactly translate equivocally amongst different state legislatures which caused the scope of practice to bifurcate in some regions. From my state legislative experience, the blame had been focused on those who oppose our continuing education and training expansion, but the landscape of healthcare is perfectly primed to allow optometrists to unify nationally. No longer do we lobby about why optometrists should be allowed to prescribe topical and oral medications, or why we are qualified to perform superficial surgical procedures. The policies of yesterday have caused increasing healthcare costs, along with physicians to work in silos. Today, I have discussions in my state of Maryland and federally about how I, an optometrist, can help legislators obtain their political goals of reducing the costs of healthcare and have better patient outcomes. It is optometrists who see patients more frequently than most other physicians and with the proper authority, we can make a difference in patient access, lowering healthcare costs and achieve better outcomes. I always enjoy the look of surprise from legislators when I tell them that line.
This approach takes the focus from optometrists wanting to expand the scope of practice, to optometrists needing the use of all our tools in our arsenal to mitigate the increasing cost of systemic eye care. Creating a win/win relationship is speaking loudly in many states including where I practice in the state of Maryland. The focus on public health and policy resonates with all stakeholders and puts pressure on legislators and agencies to start providing solutions to their constituents. It will also require all optometrists to come together and help states to be on pay, so patients and other health professionals understand the importance of optometry’s role and how we are part of their healthcare team.
Advocating in Annapolis, Maryland (from left to right): Dr. Natalie Sukontasup, Dr. Bryan M. Rogoff (Immediate Past President), Dr. Kevin Johnson (President) & Dr. Alan Glazier (2nd Vice President)
Bryan M. Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM has a unique background in areas of holistic eye care, business management and healthcare reform. He specializes in LEAN clinical management and operations, technology implementation, healthcare strategy, and strategic partnerships. Currently, he serves as a consultant for for the FDA, Immediate Past-President & Education Chairperson for the Maryland Optometric Association, Federal Keyperson and Meetings Committee Member for the American Optometric Association, reviewer for the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education and is the Founder of Eye-Exec Consulting, LLC. To contact Bryan, visit www.eye-exec.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.