During Vermont’s 2019 Legislative Session, the Vermont Optometric Association came before the House Government Operations Committee to testify in support of a proposal to expand the optometrist scope of practice to permit this profession to perform “advanced procedures.” These proposed “advanced procedures” consisted of various types of surgery on and around the eye. The Vermont Ophthalmological Society and the Vermont Medical Society adamantly opposed this proposed change in the scope of practice of optometrists out of concerns for patient safety.
The Committee determined that a study was needed to “evaluate the safety and public health needs of enlarging the scope of practice of optometrists to include advanced procedures.” The Vermont General Assembly directed the state’s Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) to conduct the study.
The General Assembly instructed OPR to evaluate:
- Approaches to advanced procedures in jurisdictions outside Vermont
- Patient need for access to additional practitioners
- Effects on patient access to care
- Effects on patient safety
- Costs to the health care system
- Existing education and training for optometrists (including the degree to which it addresses training in “advanced procedures”)
- Specific clinical training for both optometrists and ophthalmologists for specific procedures.
Vermont's Government Rejected Surgery by Optometrists
After consulting with stakeholders and conducting extensive and thorough research, Vermont's Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) could not conclude that optometrists were properly trained in, nor could safely perform, the proposed “advanced procedures” (surgeries) they were seeking to add into their scope of practice.
Further, OPR found that there is little need for—and minimal cost savings associated with—expanding the optometric scope of practice to include “advanced procedures.”
“For these reasons, OPR recommends AGAINST expanding the optometric scope of practice to include the proposed “advanced procedures.”
Click here to view the 2020 report.