One of the most impactfuland for many, controversialdecisions for optometry is now right around the corner, as the AOAs House of Delegates will vote on whether the profession will pursue board certification during the AOAs annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, June 26th. As the call for value-driven healthcare reform and its rapid delivery is being trumpeted by the current Administration, proponents of board certification attest that in order for optometry to have a seat at the health care reform table, board certification and a standard maintenance of certification model must be in place.

This is a hallmark decision for the profession. This is one of the most important decision for optometrists in the past 20 years, says AOA Trustee and Stillwater, Okla. optometrist David Cockrell. We have done everything we know to get the information out as quickly as possible to our members on this important issue.

The Federal Government and other entities are already in deep discussion about the need for a standard requirement of maintenance of certification to qualify as a performance measure for such programs as the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, says Dr. Cockrell. The new Medical Home program requires for the first time that a specific provider must be board certified, he adds. To demonstrate quality of care in these and other Federal programs, one requirement currently being discussed is not just board certification, but also a framework that proves maintenance of certification, Dr. Cockrell says. 

Opponents of the current proposed model counter that the board certification already exists: I maintain that any O.D. who has passed the NBEO (National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam) and/or TMOD (Treatment & Management of Ocular Disease exam) is board certified, said optometrist Howell Findley of Lexington, Ky. He adds: What the profession does not need is another program to give a general board certification. We already have that. Dr. Findley says the board certification proposal is a grand document, but not a practical way to obtain re-certification. What this model does is create significant time and money burdens without being any value in improving patient care. Dr. Findley instead calls for a protocol that would improve an optometrists clinical skills, directly improve patient care and would actually be enjoyable to obtain. The current proposal fails on all counts, he says.

Board certification advocates say the time for board certification is now and the stakes are too high to ignore or postpone the inevitable. Optometry is the only prescribing doctoral-level health care profession that doesnt have a process to measure continued competency beyond entry level, Dr. Cockrell says. Board certification is crucial to maintain equal status with other health care professions in the eyes of the public and policymakers.

Whether you are for or against board certification, stay tuned. For more information on the board certification proposed model, go to Also, look for an article in the July issue of Review that will detail everything you need to know about Electronic Health Care Records, new Federal requirements, timelines, incentives and penalties regarding EHR that may impact your practice.

Vol. No: 146:06Issue: 6/15/2009