American Academy of Ophthalmology Calls on States to Maintain High Safety Standards for Surgical Eyecare


WASHINGTON—The American Academy of Ophthalmology agrees with important patient safety guidelines recommended in a joint report issued by the three federal agencies that help guide the nation's health care system, according to an announcement from the organization. The report, authored by the three cabinet secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor, focuses on reforms that deliver systemwide cost savings, with significant attention paid to the delivery of care at the state level.

One recommendation is that states forego scope-of-practice expansion when legitimate health and safety concerns exists. The Academy's community of 23,000 U.S. ophthalmologists supports this approach, the organization said. In ophthalmology, scope-of-practice regulations protect patients from harm during surgery by ensuring that only those with the necessary medical education and clinical training are authorized to perform surgical eye procedures.

The Academy views this recommendation as a clear win for patients and their safety, particularly since it has the endorsement of three cabinet secretaries.

The report's authors recommend that states remove so-called "restrictive" scope-of-practice laws that allegedly "limit provider entry and ability to practice in ways that do not address demonstrable or substantial risks to consumer health and safety." The Academy, a leading voice for the profession of ophthalmology on policy issues that affect how medical and surgical eyecare is provided in the U.S., supports the authors' stated standard of a justified safety regulation to prevent risk of serious harm.

"Too often there is a rush to extend surgical privileges to those who lack the years of medical education and clinical training necessary for understanding and safely performing critical procedures," Keith D. Carter, MD, FACS, president of the Academy, said. "It is critical, certainly in eyecare, that should our states opt to expand scope of practice, that they eschew any dangerous softening of surgical standards and heed the recommendations in this report by preserving regulations that protect patients seeking surgery and complex medical care of eye disease."

The report's authors further concluded that states should allow all health care providers to practice to the top of their license, an approach for which the Academy is generally supportive.

Additionally, the Academy urges Congress and the Trump administration to back federal truth-in-advertising legislation to ensure patients understand their providers' surgical and clinical qualifications.

Such legislation can ensure that patients can "assess quality of care at the time of delivery," as recommended by the report's authors. This can help alleviate documented patient confusion on the qualifications of the myriad eyecare providers in each town and state.