ATLANTA – Optometrists provide 66% of all eye care and 77% of all first-time eye care visits. “You each need to advocate for yourselves,” Stephen M. Montaquila, OD, FAAO, said here at SECO.
Optometrists are on the front line of eye health and vision care, he said, located in 6,500 communities. “In over half of those communities, we’re the only place to go,” he said.
Studies have shown there will be a decrease in ophthalmologists at least through 2020, Montaquila said. “There’s an increase in highly specialized ophthalmologists,” he said. “That’s a good thing for optometry. We’ve been educated, trained, licensed and have expanded scope of practice to provide care to an aging population that will have a greater demand on the services we provide.
Stephen M. Montaquila
“I’m not talking about the medical model,” he continued. “I would encourage you to get rid of that terminology. I’m talking about adding medical eye care services to the core of our profession, the refractive services we provide. Build on what you already have.”
Montaquila noted that optometrists spend 80% of their time providing comprehensive eye exams and only 20% on medical eye care.
“But there’s a gap being created by ophthalmology,” he said. “If you were running a large business, you would gear up and take care of that.”
Many say that an abundance of optometrists are graduating, Montaquila said. However, a void exists, and someone will fill it.
“If we don’t train enough optometrists to take over, someone will step up, such as opticians, physicians’ assistants or nurse practitioners,” he said. “We need to make sure we not only have enough doctors, but that we own the space and have the tools to do so.” – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Montaquila SM. Thriving in the new era: Tackling access, coding and payments head on. Presented at: SECO. Feb. 24-28; Atlanta.
Disclosure: Montaquila reported no relevant financial disclosures.