AOA Applauds Report Calling for States to Improve Safe Patient Access to Critical Eye Health Services

December 12, 2018

ST. LOUIS - The American Optometric Association (AOA) supports the recommendations asserted in the 2018 Administration Report, Reforming America's Healthcare System Through Choice and Competition, focused on actions to ensure the U.S. health care system delivers high-quality and affordable care by promoting choice and competition. Issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the U.S Department of the Treasury and Labor, the Federal Trade Commission and several offices within the White House, the agenda-setting report highlights important recommendations and actions to improve safe patient access to an efficient health system that maximizes resources and care. The report specifically addresses recommendations made by the AOA, in response to a 2017 request for information, that would ultimately increase patient access to care.

One critical component to patient health care choice and access is to ensure that doctors of optometry, the providers of more than two-thirds of primary eye health care in the U.S., are able to practice to the full extent of their education and training in each state. Within the report, the administration noted that doctors of optometry can provide the same services as other physician types and explicitly recommended that "states should consider changes to their scope of practice statutes to allow all healthcare providers to practice to the top of their license, utilizing their full skill set."

The AOA commends this recommendation as a victory for patient care and safety, which should remain at the center of all health care decisions.

Up to 16 million Americans struggle with undiagnosed of untreated vision impairments.[1] Combined with the fact that eye diseases, vision loss, and eye disorders create an estimated $139 billion economic burden[2], the U.S. is facing a significant public health crisis. As America's primary eye health care providers, the more than 46,000 doctors of optometry are uniquely positioned to address this challenge, but only when they are not constrained by antiquated and unfounded restrictions. This report proposes the clear and necessary action to advance and enhance care, while maintaining patient safety, by revisiting state laws to ensure they reflect the training and skills of today's doctors of optometry. "Restrictive state practice laws that are based on an antiquated perception of education and skills are holding patient care hostage and it is only when we evolve these laws that patients will have access to the care they deserve," said Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., AOA President. "Our health care system and technologies are advancing at an incredible pace and the recommendations outlined within this report encourage our laws to do the same." 

The AOA urges states to consider these recommendations and take action to further patient care.

[1] "Making Eye Health A Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow," sponsors: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Eye Institute, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Prevent Blindness and National Center for Children's Vision and Eye Health and Research to Prevent Blindness.

[2]JAMA Ophthalmology "Public Attitudes about Eye and Vision Health," August 2016.  

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