AOA to Census Bureau: ‘Doctor’ the optimal word

December 8, 2015
Census Bureau changes phrasing to reflect AOA concerns.

"Doctor of optometry" will replace "optometrist" on U.S. Census Bureau forms after AOA successfully petitioned the federal agency to make changes that stress doctors' status as Medicare physicians.

Given the opportunity to provide comments in preparation for the Bureau's 2017 Economic Census—a five-year snapshot of the U.S. economy—the AOA issued a letter to the agency on Oct. 30 that outlined several suggested phrasing revisions designed to ensure accuracy and eliminate misinformation.

Among these revisions, the AOA requested the Bureau make changes to specific texts on forms HC-62104 (Office of Physicians and Other Health Practitioners), HC-62109 (Outpatient Care Facilities) and HC-62190 (Classification Form-Ambulatory Health Care Services), including:

  • Use the term "doctor of optometry" rather than "optometrist," as this phrase reflects common usage
  • Add one entry to represent "Diseases of the Eye and Adnexa (H00-H59)," reflecting the transition to ICD-10 on Oct. 1, 2015
  • Appropriately list doctors of optometry under "physician services" as opposed to "other health practitioners," given that Medicare identifies doctors as such, and correct or remove the language that identifies physician services as including those physicians with the degree of M.D. or D.O.

Only weeks after the letter was sent, the Bureau responded that it would incorporate two of the three suggestions while taking the third (physician services) under consideration. Although a small victory for the profession, it's one that takes further steps to dispel misinformation about the quality care doctors of optometry provide.

Roger Jordan, O.D., AOA Federal Relations Committee chair, says doctors of optometry have long been recognized as physicians in Medicare and listed as such, and this acknowledgement elevates the profession to the physician level in the eyes of the Bureau. The recognition of treating the diseases of the eye and adnexa also recognizes the crucial medical care doctors of optometry provide.

"The Bureau's swift confirmation—a few weeks after we requested the change—is an amazing turn around when considering months or even years are often needed in Washington, D.C.," Dr. Jordan says.

"Over the past few years, we have changed the reference to 'doctors of optometry' in several other Federal references and will continue to monitor to have continuity of recognition for the profession in all Federal arenas."

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