ODs and MDs forge educational initiative

December 12, 2013

The American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recently announced that they are planning to work together on joint educational initiatives. These initiatives are not yet planned, and the organizations anticipate that they will launch sometime in 2015.

The American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recently announced that they are planning to work together on joint educational initiatives. These initiatives are not yet planned, and the organizations anticipate that they will launch sometime in 2015.

“If we’re going to move forward on this, it has to be in areas of mutual collaboration and mutual trust and respect between the professions,” says Bernard J. Dolan, OD, MS, president of the American Academy of Optometry. “We’re not naïve to think there isn’t going to be conflict in some advocacy areas. We are hopeful to build a strong enough base to build positive patient outcomes. This may defuse some of the potential conflicts down the road, but I’m not naïve enough to think that they’re going to disappear or never occur.”

David W. Parke II, MD, chief executive officer of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, agrees. “If we’re going to be totally candid about this, we know we’re not going to agree on absolutely everything,” he says. “We have a lot of history between the professions, not all of which is positive. The goal here is to recognize that as the American Academy of Optometry is an educational organization, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is primarily an educational organization, and we have a tremendous positive interface.”

Leadership for both organizations are aware that support from their respective memberships is important.

Says Dr. Parke: “We need to make sure that where we go is something that our memberships are comfortable with. From us to go from 0 to 60 mph overnight is not in anyone’s best interest. We are intentionally going to proceed slowly. It’s our goal that this is a sustainable relationship.”

According to Dr. Dolan, feedback from his organization has been overwhelmingly positive. Members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology have given modest feedback, according to Dr. Parke, with some strongly supportive and others opposed. Within both groups, some members are waiting for additional details on initiative scope and execution before lending support.

The organizations are looking for areas of mutual scientific and clinical interest that will help patients. In addition, those areas can stay well away from the “third rails,” as Dr. Parke termed topics of disagreement between the groups. Hypothetical examples of such areas include keratoconus, ocular surface disease, and genetic testing in eye disease.

“[These examples] affect both professions and hypothetically the two organizations can work to develop an evidence-based scientific statement to educate both member groups,” says Dr. Parke. “These are examples of where you don’t come close to those third rails.”

The American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have not asked other professional groups to the join the initiative.

“Up to this point, we haven’t entertained having the American Optometric Association (AOA) involved,” says Dr. Dolan. “The American Academy of Ophthalmology approached us to discuss education and patient outcomes. If you put the AOA in the mix, you do have one of their primary rules of the advocacy area. This is the area we’re attempting to set aside. I advised the AOA leadership prior to the release of the press release of our interaction, but in building trust and the relationship between the two, we haven’t discussed it outside of the board of directors.”

The AOA did not have a comment at this time on the proposed joint educational initiatives.

This past year, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) provided education at its annual meeting to certain groups optometrists (“Certain ODs welcome to new ASCRS integrated program,” February issue; “ASCRS welcomes OD during IOMED program,” May issue); however, the group is not part of this new educational initiative.

Says Dr. Parke: “ASCRS is different in many regards and not part of this initiative. The reason discussions are between the American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is because these are, from my perspective, the two organizations in the profession that have global education as their primary missions.”

ASCRS President Eric Donnenfeld, MD, says the collaboration between the two organizations is a progressive response addressing the future of eye care. “Based on the number of Medicare beneficiaries who are coming into the program, ophthalmology and optometry must work together to provide quality care to our patients,” he says. “There is no question that this initiative coupled with what ASCRS is currently doing to help create a more coordinated and integrated eyecare model will lead to better healthcare delivery.”

INSERT ARVO COMMENT HERE

A joint meeting of American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Ophthalmology has not been discussed; however, a joint symposium at both groups’ annual meetings is on the table. The American Academy of Optometry has held joint symposia with ARVO at its past annual meetings.

Next steps for both organizations include obtaining more feedback from respective memberships and holding meetings beyond leadership only to include those members who are interested in driving the initiatives forward. The more input members provide, the stronger the relationship will become, says Dr. Dolan.

“When the two groups got together and we talked about how we were going to move forward, we established a number of basic principles,” said Dr. Parke.” At the core this has to be based on the mutual interests of both organizations, based on trust, based on respect, and it has to be something which we feel can lead to a sustainable relationship. Those principles and a few others which underlie the culture of the relationship are going to drive how we move forward.”ODT