This month, Virginia’s governor signed into law a bill to allow optometrists in the state to perform certain laser treatments including YAG capsulotomy, peripheral iridotomy, and selective laser trabeculoplasty.
“Virginia has more than twice as many doctors of optometry as ophthalmologists, and an ophthalmology study found nearly half of Virginians needing these procedures live more than 30 minutes away from an ophthalmologist,” says a statement on the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) website justifying the legislation.
The group also highlights the safety records of optometrists in other states who perform these treatments, adding that optometry schools adequately prepare graduates for proficiency in these procedures.
Ryan Kern, OD, associate professor of optometry at University of Pikeville says these expansions of optometry’s scope of practice benefit both patients and members of the eye care community.
With respect to his patients, Dr Kern says that this legislation will not have a tremendous impact on the physician/patient relationship, “because our patients have always trusted [optometrists] to care for their eyes and the eyes of their families.”
Dr Kern acknowledges that optometrists must perform at their highest levels in order to continue to gain the respect of patients and members of the medical profession stating, “It is paramount to provide optimal eye care to patients as we move into the future, and these important steps will help build a more efficient and cohesive partnership.”
American Optometric Association. Virginia gains optometric laser procedures for glaucoma, post-cataract care. American Optometric Association. www.aoa.org/news/advocacy/state-advocacy/virginia-scope-advancement. Updated March 10, 2022. Accessed March 23, 2022.