Virginia bill would allow optometrists to perform in-office laser procedures

Two state bills under consideration in Virginia could change the state's eye care landscape, NBC affiliate WWBT reported Jan. 19.

House Bill 213 and Senate Bill 375, if passed, would allow optometrists in the state to use lasers for three in-office procedures to treat glaucoma and provide after-cataract surgery care. Those procedures are currently only approved for ophthalmologists.

The Virginia Optometric Association said the bills would increase access to care and reduce potential complications for patients, the report said.

"Not every optometrist in the state performs these procedures … so there is some issues with access or care," said Jerry Neidigh, OD, optometrist and chair of the Virginia Optometric Association's legislative committee. "Basically, what happens now is identifying the problem in the patient and I have to refer to another ophthalmologist, which takes time and more money, probably another co-pay." 

Virginia would become the ninth state where optometrists are able to perform the procedures if the bills are passed, Amanda Umlandt, OD, president-elect of the Virginia Optometric Association, said in a Jan. 14 Bristol Herald Courier op-ed.

"Eye surgery should be performed by eye surgeons, who have experience and proficiency that only comes with years of education and training supervised by other surgeons, and participating in hundreds of surgeries on real live people," Michael Keverline, MD, president of the Virginia Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement emailed to Becker's ASC Review. "Optometrists play a key role in eye and vision care, but it is important to understand where their scope of practice should end, and that is with surgery. Ophthalmologists are the only physicians qualified to perform eye surgery and prepared to manage surgical complications that can and do occur."


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