The American Optician

Winter 2017

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1 9 The question, "What will the future of optometry be 20 years from now and how might it affect opticianry?" leads to some interesting data, trends and predictions. Why is optometry's future important for opticians to understand? Because it will affect and likely shape our own future. THE PAST There were no optometrists 200 years ago. Anyone who worked with spectacles and lenses for vision correction was called an optician. The word "optometry" was used for the first time in 1865 in Holland and in 1872, the first optometry college in the U.S. was established. In 1901, Minnesota became the first state to license optometrists, and by 1924, all the states were licensed. This history is important because it illustrates a trend in optometry to continuously increase its scope of practice. THE PRESENT Initially, optometrists conducted eye tests and sold eyeglasses. As the profession evolved, it saw its role as providing vision care (a broader practice model involving a comprehensive eye examination, vision therapy, and eyewear sales, including contact lenses, low vision devices, etc.). Today, optometry recognizes that there are two channels that motivate people to seek eyecare: vision care and health care. The profession has done well in legislating full scope vision care practices for optometrists, but with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, optometry realizes it must now create a medical model, what the professional dubs as, "medical optometry." In this model, optometrists treat both the vision and health needs of their patients. THE FUTURE In his blog , Kirk Smick, OD, worries that not every OD will embrace the medical model and fears that there may become a split in optometry between those continuing to provide just eye exams and eyewear services and those wishing to move into what he calls comprehensive care. Smick believes that, "… [optometry's] survival will require wholehearted adoption of the medical model." Smick is concerned that graduating ODs will have massive debt, which may make them seek employment instead of becoming independent practitioners, which has been the traditional practice model for many decades. Smick also worries that there will be an oversupply of ODs in the future. A study conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) paints a far different picture. In an article in the AOA Focus , staff writer Will Pinkston discusses a roadmap for optometry's future that uses the study's results for its predictions. The study concludes that if the current supply of ODs filled their appointment books completely, and with the expected supply of ophthalmologists and new ODs and MDs, there would be an adequate supply of eye doctors through 2025, the study's target date. Randolph Brooks, OD, past-president of the AOA and chair of the study team stated that, "A large piece of that increase in demand is also expected to be from the inclusion of optometry as part of the delivery of full-scope medical care, as part of the medical team in the 25 million adults expected to achieve medical coverage. And additionally, the growing and aging population of U.S. adults will contribute to the demand for medical eye care. The ability of optometrists to be successful in the future is heavily dependent on the ability to meet the eye health needs that are growing, and expected to grow more." Optey and Opticianry 2045: A Crystal Ball View

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