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Expanding Scope of Optometry Could Save $4.6B a Year, Report Suggests

Avalon Health Economics released a study.

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A new report suggests that Americans could save at least $4.6 billion a year if states expanded their optometric scope of practice.

Avalon Health Economics released the study, titled “Optometry’s Essential and Expanding Role in Health Care: Assured Quality and Greater Access for Healthier Communities,” in the AOA House of Delegates during Optometry’s Meeting.

Researchers found that widespread optometric scope of practice expansion could “conservatively” add $600 million per year in transaction cost savings, along with $4 billion per year in savings connected to access-related improvements in health outcomes, AOA reports.

Study authors John Schneider and Cara Scheibling wrote that the numbers are “likely an underestimate” in that they don’t consider compounding factors, such as competition and a “multiplier effect” on local economies.

Other findings from the report:

  • 91% of Americans support laws that allow doctors of optometry to provide a full range of care that they are trained to provide.
  • 62% of Americans trust their doctor of optometry to provide their eye health and vision care, notably greater than the 26% who said the same of their primary care doctor, and statistically equivalent to the 64% who said the same of an ophthalmologist.
  • 96% of Americans say assured access to eye health and vision care is an essential priority, second only to overall access to primary care (97%).

According to the report: “Since 1998, state affiliates of the American Optometric Association have supported and played a positive role in enacting 62 laws in 47 states expanding optometric scope of practice, in turn, granting tens of millions of patients the ability to select doctors of optometry for their essential medical eye health and vision care.”

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AOA notes that four states — Alaska, Louisiana, Kentucky and Oklahoma — permit advanced surgical procedures, such as phototherapeutic keratectomy (PKT) laser eye surgery, YAG laser capsulotomy and trabeculoplasty, under their scope of practice acts. Arkansas only recently became the fifth state.

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