Better Access to Eyecare

Yesterday, exciting changes in the rules regulating what optometrists are allowed to do were announced. These changes affect all Albertans. I’m excited to share what these changes are and how they affect you!

There are several changes. One is that optometrists will now be able to prescribe certain oral medications. For the past many years optometrists have been able to treat eye disease only with eye drops. There are, however, certain conditions that don't respond well to only eye drops and pills are needed. Optometrists are trained in their schooling on all forms of medications, both pills and drops. Being able to get this prescription from your optometrist will save you another trip to the doctor.

The second change is that optometrists are now free to diagnose and treat glaucoma. We have really been doing that for years but the initial treatment plan was always to be arranged by an ophthalmologist. Optometrists receive extensive training in both the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma given how common it is in the population! We are now able to make full use of our education and officially diagnose and treat our glaucoma patients.

We have also been given the ability to order lab work. There are many, many disease that show up in the eyes but actually affect our whole body (diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, multiple types of arthritis and more). In the past, if we saw a concerning finding and thought there could be an underlying problem we could not order test directly. This resulted in patients having to run around and see multiple doctors just to get blood work done! Optometrists ordering lab work streamlines the process, and also saves you another doctor’s visit.

Finally, we are now able to order ultrasounds when and where needed to diagnose certain conditions. This will result in faster diagnoses of potentially severe health issues such as certain eye cancers.

These changes will not take effect immediately. While optometrists are fully trained in all of these areas, many of us haven't had an opportunity to use our knowledge for many years. To ensure the absolute protection of the public and ensure that all patients receive only the best care any optometrists not recently graduated from school will take a recertification course. This will refresh us on what we have been previously taught.

The overall benefits of these changes are many: it decreases cost and strain on our health care system; it increases efficiency for everyone and makes sure that you, as the patient, aren't having your time wasted going from doctor to doctor. It also lets optometrists use more of the training that they received in school.

And the negatives? None. You will still receive the same high level and quality of care, from a board certified medical professional, that you would have received before. Your health continues to be our number one priority.

If you have questions or would like to discuss any of this in more detail, I’d be happy to visit with you at the office, or discuss on Twitter, Google + or Facebook!

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