Why Board Certification?

I continue to be astounded by discussions of the need for board certification in optometry. Those engaging in the discussion ignore the fact that many of us have been board certified for decades.

I, for one, have been board certified since around 1980 when I passed the National Boards parts I, II and III. Since that time, a clinical segment has been added to measure patient examination skills. Add to that the T.M.O.D. We could build a house with all these boards. Are the above credentials throwaways? The time spent preparing for them and the exam fees paid certainly werent. So, why do our opinion leaders discount our current board certified status?

Do we really need more board certification? There are several strong objections to another credentialing process. There were some things taught in school and tested on boards that have nothing to do with the day-to-day practice of optometry. So, who will oversee the new credentialing process to ensure it is clinically relevant?

The thought this new certification will make us more mainstream in the medical world is pointless. Those who currently discount our contribution will continue to do so regardless of our certification status. It is wishful thinking to believe otherwise.

There is a misconception that the new board is needed to demonstrate continued competence. Current re-licensure requires continuing education hours in every state. Some states even require attendees pass a test over the material presented in the CE courses. How is it that our current process doesnt demonstrate continued competence, but a new board would? Our current CE process is so extensive and so regulated that separate governing bodies (COPE) and monitoring services have arisen to help us keep track of it all. State associations have meetings almost quarterly to provide these essentials. Regional meetings abound to fulfill our ongoing requirements.

Finally, if our current boards prove nothing in demonstrating our competence, how can a new board do so? The only way to really measure continued competence is to directly observe each of us as we deliver eye care to our patients at specific intervals of time. That would present a world of challenges.

The arguments presented for additional board certification include expectation of quality from savvy patients, medical mistakes, electronic medical records and pay for performance. While each is a real concern, not one of them individually nor the group as a whole requires a new boarding process. Optometrists and the state boards are currently adequately addressing each of these issues. That practicing O.D.s do not want this should speak volumes. We dont want it because it is unnecessary and adds nothing of substance to our patient care. This new board is made for third parties to prove our worth and has nothing to do with real added value.

Lets quit this wild goose chase before we waste more time and money. Rather, our leaders should spend this time and money educating third parties about our current comprehensive and fully adequate board certification process.
Howell Findley, O.D., Lexington, Ky.

Vol. No: 145:03Issue: 3/14/2008