Optometrists in North Carolina hope to expand patient access to care by adding laser procedures to their scope of practice, continuing optometry’s ongoing goal of best patient care possible.
HB 36, also known as the Enhanced Access to Eye Care Act, would allow ODs in North Carolina to perform:
• YAG capsulotomy (YAG)
• Laser peripheral iridotomy (PI)
• Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT)
• Removal and identification of skin lesions around the eye
HB 36 passed its first reading and awaits a hearing in the House Health Committee. North Carolina Optometric Society (NCOS) leadership hopes this hearing takes place by mid-March, although the hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Three states—Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Louisiana—allow optometrists to perform laser procedures. Oklahoma ODs earned laser privileges in 1998, Kentucky ODs expanded their scope in 2011, and Louisiana ODs followed in 2014.
HB 36 is modeled after the precedent of those states and follows the language of Kentucky’s scope, according to Jill Bryant, OD, FAAO, FSLS, president of NCOS and chief operating officer of National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO).
“Some of our ophthalmology colleagues do not understand the value of optometric services,” she says. “We have an exemplary record of safety care. Oklahoma ODs have performed more than 25,000 procedures with great outcomes. Malpractice rates in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Louisiana have not increased due to the expanded optometric scope.”
NCOS Executive Director Adrianne Drollette says North Carolina has a long history of a strong scope of practice.
“We see this bill as the next logical step,” she says. “Our leadership has been looking at this for a number of years. I’m not sure it has much to do with geography.”
According to Dr. Bryant, NCOS leadership met with organized ophthalmology in North Carolina, but both groups agreed to disagree on the topic of expanded scope for optometrists.