Excerpted from page 5 of the November/December 2017 edition of AOA Focus.
Fresh out of optometry school and eager to embark on my chosen career more than 30 years ago, it never occurred to me not to join the association of my profession. I knew then that the tremendous investment I was making in becoming a doctor of optometry needed to be protected.
And after all this time, the benefits and value of membership in the AOA and my state affiliate, tangible and intangible, have only grown.
The tangible benefits are easy to list. No one advocates for our profession except AOA, which is fighting the good fight for access and equality 24/7/365. We're aggressively working to expand patient access to optometric care, including ensuring doctors are fully able to participate in the health care plans of their choice. We fight, too, for an expanded scope of practice that reflects our professional training and experience. We actively work to ensure equality with other physician providers; to ensure our patients are not harmed by unproven technology; and to protect patients from unscrupulous online sellers who violate the law.
Beyond the benefit of advocacy, we provide members-only tools you need to succeed, whether that's continuing education at Optometry's Meeting®; group purchasing discounts and other business solutions through AOAExcel®; staff certification and training tools through the Paraoptometric Resource Center; and patient education and practice management resources at AOA Marketplace.
Because of access to these practice-enhancing tools, members of AOA, on average, earn 10% more than their nonmember peers, our research shows.
There also are intangible benefits of AOA membership. As part of our optometric community, you are connected and have access to an extraordinary network of expert and experienced doctors nationally and through state affiliates. Priceless clinical collaborations, practice-building ideas and lifelong personal relationships open up through these connections. Nonmembers can become isolated and stagnant, missing the opportunity for personal growth and financial success.
Nonmembers have told me the cost of a membership has kept them from joining our association. But I have always considered AOA membership one of the essential expenses of doing business—as necessary as a slit lamp, an office manager and insurance—in helping navigate a very complex health care environment.
I've also considered membership a duty—to the profession, which has so richly rewarded me and allowed me to help so many patients, and to our future and the already dues-paying members who carry the full weight of our advocacy efforts on behalf of all optometrists. We can celebrate the great diversity of the practice of optometry, but we share in a need to have a common voice for the profession. As I have said previously in this space, we are strong together.
I want to thank our current members for their continuing support of the AOA. To nonmembers, I invite you to do the math. I assure you there's only an upside to AOA membership.
The AOA will use the time to evaluate its collection efforts and create a registry for the future that is most useful to improving eye health and vision care. The AOA launched the registry in 2015.
Even if you’re choosing to disengage, today’s politics have a way of finding you. What are the ground rules for approaching political debates in the practice?
Under new rules for the 21st Century Cures Act, doctors of optometry will need to prepare for changes going into effect April 5. Doctors should check in with their health IT vendor in order to make sure they meet the new requirements.