9 benefits of introducing laser procedures into your practice

November 2, 2023
Doctors of optometry should consider the benefits of adding office-based laser procedures, such as YAG capsulotomy (after cataract surgery) or selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT, for glaucoma), to their practice.
YAG Laser Procedure Image

Richard “Rich” Castillo, O.D., D.O., has been on the front lines of preparing doctors of optometry for performing office-based laser procedures in their practice. Dr. Castillo has educated, lectured and advocated on the subject, emerging as one of its most ardent champions.

With doctors of optometry seeing historic scope expansion wins, including doctors of optometry in 11 states performing laser procedures, the AOA asked Dr. Castillo what optometry should consider if offering laser procedures as an option for their patients.

“Introducing office-based laser procedures to the repertoire of services an optometric physician provides offers numerous benefits and opportunities,” says Dr. Castillo, who will be presenting once again at Optometry’s Meeting® 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee, June 19-22. “It's important to note that any expansion of optometric services should be done within the legal and regulatory framework of the region and with appropriate training and certification to ensure patient safety.”

According to Dr. Castillo, here are nine reasons to provide office-based laser procedures:

  1. Expanded services. “The inclusion of optometric laser procedures allows the optometric physician to broaden the range of services they offer. This can attract more patients and increase revenue.”
  2. Needed treatments for ocular conditions. “Optometric laser procedures can be effective in treating various ocular conditions, such as glaucoma, and posterior capsular opacification, essential services to the community at large.”
  3. Patient convenience. “Patients often prefer having their eye care needs met in one place, by a provider they are comfortable with. Offering laser procedures can eliminate the need for referrals to ophthalmologists, improving patient satisfaction.”
  4. Competitive advantage. “Incorporating laser procedures can make an optometric practice stand out in today’s competitive market, attracting patients seeking advanced treatments.”
  5. Advanced technology. “The use of laser technology demonstrates a commitment to staying at the forefront of optometric care, enhancing the practice's reputation, and patient confidence in the provider.”
  6. Collaboration with ophthalmologists and other health care providers. “Optometric physicians collaborate with ophthalmologists and other physicians on the co-management of patients, ensuring comprehensive care and shared expertise.”
  7. Revenue growth. “Optometric laser procedures can be financially rewarding, contributing to the practice's growth and sustainability. Furthermore, conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and considering the specific needs and demographics of the practice's patient base are crucial before investing in any technology in an optometry practice.”
  8. Community impact. “In rural or underserved areas, where access to ophthalmology services may be limited to nonexistent, offering laser procedures can have a significant impact on the community's eye and general health, reinforcing optometry’s contract with society.”
  9. Professional development. “Skills-transfer courses in performing optometric laser procedures and trying out the latest technology taught by qualified and experienced instructors can be obtained at the AOA’s annual Optometry’s Meeting, the American Academy of Optometry, SECO, and various state association meetings held year-round. In addition, numerous optometry programs, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Indiana University, the University of Pikeville, Northeastern State University, Salus University and the University of Waterloo all offer excellent optometric laser and surgical training programs. The National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) offers optometry’s only independent and standardized laser and surgical procedures exam (LSPE™) created across optometry and ophthalmology, which is designed to assess an optometric physician’s cognitive ability to appropriately manage and perform certain laser and surgical skills. The LSPE is accepted by three states (Arkansas, Louisiana and Wyoming) and is gaining acceptance across the country, even being written into proposed statutes as a credential (e.g., California).”

Resources from the AOA

Review your malpractice policy

Before performing any laser procedures, make sure to confirm that you will be covered by your malpractice insurance policy. Many malpractice policies exclude procedures that are covered within your state’s scope of practice. Read through your policy and double check that it does not have exclusions and that its coverage expands as new procedures are allowed by law. AOA members can upload their current malpractice policy to AOAExcel® for a complimentary review from an industry expert who can determine whether a given procedure is covered.

Equip staff for optometric surgical assisting

AOA is offering a comprehensive micro-credential program designed to equip paraoptometric staff with specialized skills and knowledge for optometric surgical assisting.

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