The study and implementation of board certification wont bring beneficial outcomes to the optometric profession and should be discontinued at once, says a petition on the optometric bulletin board

The petition had 653 signatures as of May 1, with a cutoff date of May 25. The main purpose of the petition is to show a collective opposition to the Joint Board Certification Project Team (JBCPT) and their study and proposal of board certification, says Russell Beach, O.D., of Virginia Beach, Va., who started the petition.

In 2007, the American Optometric Association announced the formation of the JBCPT, consisting of representatives of the AOA and five other optometric organizations, to devise a board certification process for optometrists. Board certification, the AOA said at that time, is necessary to demonstrate continued and advanced clinical competence to the public, third-party payers and government agencies.

Not so, says Dr. Beach. He argues against continuing the process, citing:

Lack of need.
Optometrists, he says, have already achieved competency through extensive education, supervised clinical rotations, national board exams and continuing education for relicensure.

There is great insecurity in the ranks of optometry if they do not share this belief, the petition says. Further, the JBCPTs actions publicly cast doubt on the current state of competence within the profession, and it would be foolish to think those who currently discount our clinical competence will be swayed by board certification.

No real benefits.
The petition questions whether implementation of board certification will really provide access to medical insurance panels or increased scope of practice. Considering board certification is essentially re-certification, it would be foolishly misguided to assume it will sway medical panels or state legislators, the petition says.

The costs. The petition argues that examinations will be costly to individual practitioners, including time spent away from practice preparing for them, while optometric organizations will reap financial benefits from the implementation of board certification.

Randolph E. Brooks, O.D., chair of the JBCPT, disagrees with the points raised by the petition. Were looking at the availability of a board certification process beyond entry level, he says. Theres growing evidence that managed-care organizations, government agencies and the public are looking to ensure continued clinical competence using a board certification model.

Optometric scope of practice, he adds, is not a consideration in the process, as that varies by state.

Further, Dr. Brooks says, to end the process right now would be premature, given that no model has been proposed yet, nor has any member of the team pledged support for board certification. What they have agreed to do is develop the best possible model for board certification for the profession to consider, to discuss and to evaluate, he says.

The team hopes to have a model available for discussion within the next 12 months. If the profession eventually accepts a board certification process, another body would be formed to oversee the process.

Vol. No: 145:05Issue: 5/15/2008