|Colorado’s new law adds these services to its optometric scope: (clockwise from upper left) capsulotomy, SLT, peripheral iridotomy, intralesional injection, collagen crosslinking, lesion incision/excision. Click image to enlarge.|
Optometrists in Colorado woke up to good news yesterday: Tuesday evening, Governor Jared Polis signed HB 22-1233 into law, permitting ODs in the state to take advantage of several new practice rights. The optometric scope of practice in Colorado is now expanded to include advanced procedures such as lesion removal, injections and corneal crosslinking, as well as three laser procedures: YAG capsulotomy, laser peripheral iridotomy and selective laser trabeculoplasty. The news comes just a few months after a successful Virginia effort added many such procedures to ODs’ rights in that state.
Approximately every 10 years, Colorado law requires that optometry goes through a sunset process to reassess and amend the definition and regulations of the profession. The new sunset bill, effective until 2033, will allow ODs in Colorado to practice according to their training and qualifications, as set forth by the state’s Board of Optometry and national exams. Guidelines on the certification required to perform each new procedure will be determined in the coming months by the Board.
“Everyone is excited about the expanded scope of practice, especially newer optometrists who have already been trained in a lot of these procedures, but prior to the passing of this bill, were not able to take advantage of their training or education,” says Deanna Alexander, OD, legislative co-chair at the Colorado Optometric Association. “Optometrists are excited to see the profession moving forward.”
The scope expansion not only benefits Colorado ODs, but will also improve access to care for state residents. For the majority of Colorado counties, optometrists are the primary eyecare providers, which is one reason why the COA fought so hard to have the bill passed—but not without a good fight by the opposition.
Karen Moldovan, government relations director at the COA, offers a few words of advice for optometrists and advocates in other states trying to push for scope expansion laws.
“Throughout the legal process, legislators were interested in the safety precedents set nationally and by other states with expanded scope laws,” Mrs. Moldovan notes. “We were confidently able to present data from states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana and others that have already passed these laws and showed that there were no patient safety concerns by any means. That data was compelling; the more states that produce that type of data, the stronger the national precedent will be.”
In addition, Mrs. Moldovan emphasizes the importance of educating legislators on the various optometric procedures and how they are performed, such as explaining that, unlike many other forms of surgery, most patients can drive themselves home after an in-office ocular procedure. “We’ve had legislators hear from optometrists in Colorado who are licensed in other states and have performed many of these procedures before,” she says. “These doctors were able to share their first-hand experiences and perspective on things like what the procedure looks like in the office.”
Mrs. Moldovan also noted that it was helpful to offer a live demonstration for legislators to walk them through a laser procedure and show them the technology that’s used. “What is really important is helping legislators understand in layperson's terms what the procedures are and what they are not.”
Lastly, Dr. Alexander also credits the legislative win to ongoing relationships between optometrists and the state. “Get engaged at the state level and connect with your legislative team,” she advises. “In Colorado, and throughout the nation, it’s the relationships that we build with the state that help us push these things forward and keep optometry strong."