Most of the debate on medical scope-of-practice rules, which determine what activities licensed medical professionals field are authorized to perform, is focused on nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.
But, as this post by Scott Edmonds writing on Healio’s medblog explains, patients and practitioners would benefit from an increased scope-of-practice for optometrists.
[Optometrists] are licensed in all 50 states as independent health care providers that are educated and trained to provide medical care. This includes the use of medications to treat disease. We are also large in number and well distributed through the country, including rural and underserved areas.
The nuances, however, in the medical care that we are licensed to provide are quite varied. More important is the fact that the legislative efforts in many states are not moving us to a more consistent primary health care profession.
The services Edmonds believes optometrists should be legally qualified to deliver are rather modest in scope. A reform in California allowed “[t]he ability to provide immunizations for flu, shingles and pneumonia is a huge step for primary care optometry. The optometrist is often the only health care profession of record for citizens in need of these preventive measures. The addition of tramadol, a non-opium narcotic, is a welcome addition and much better choice to treat pain considering the rising opioid epidemic.”