Texas joins the growing number of states to pass legislation that will broaden the scope of practice for its optometrists. Healio spoke with Tommy Lucas, OD, Texas Optometric Association’s director of advocacy, regarding this development and how it will affect both physicians and patients. Healio: How will this new […]
Texas joins the growing number of states to pass legislation that will broaden the scope of practice for its optometrists.
Healio spoke with Tommy Lucas, OD, Texas Optometric Association’s director of advocacy, regarding this development and how it will affect both physicians and patients.
Healio: How will this new legislation specifically change daily practice for ODs?
Lucas: Senate Bill 993 addresses two major areas that have been problems for Texas patients for a long time. First, Texas optometrists will now be able to prescribe any oral medication used to treat eye conditions. Previously, only a very limited formulary of oral medications was allowed. Second, optometrists will be able to manage glaucoma independently, without a mandatory comanagement process with an ophthalmologist for every patient with glaucoma. Instead of required comanagement, certain glaucomas needing possible surgical intervention will need to be referred.
Healio: How will this benefit patients in Texas?
Lucas: This bill is a big win for Texas patients. It has been very inefficient, and more costly, for patients to get the eye care they need for certain eye conditions that require oral medication prescriptions. The optometrist is the expert that makes the diagnosis and knows the proper treatment, but we had to send the patient elsewhere or get a different health care professional to write the needed prescription. Additionally, patient confusion and cost associated with the glaucoma comanagement was inhibiting care and treatment plan compliance. Those problems have been remedied in this legislation.
Healio: What challenges were faced along the way to get this passed?
Lucas: This is the first scope of practice enhancement for Texas optometrist in 21 years. During that lengthy time period, opposition from the organized medical lobby has been the biggest challenge. In this legislative session, initial opposition from the medical groups was changed to support for the bill after many months of discussion and negotiation with lawmakers. But it took many years of Texas optometrists developing and nurturing relationships with legislators to build up the broad support needed to pass a scope of practice bill. The Texas Optometric Association developed and executed a plan to make all of this happen.
Healio: Do you know when the governor is expected to sign the bill?
Lucas: We're hopeful to have Governor Greg Abbott's signature on this bill within 30 days, sometime in the month of June.