Nearly two years after its inception, the Joint Board Certification Project Team (JBCPT) has released its proposed model of board certification for optometrists.

The committees intent was to further a practical commitment to continuing education (CE). We wanted to design a model based partly on continuing education, but to make sure that the requirements were flexible enough to apply to optometrists in general practice, says Christopher Wolfe, O.D., American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) representative to the JBCPT.


Certification Requirements

The proposed model calls for creation of the American Board of Optometry (ABO) to oversee the process. This independent, not-for-profit corporation would be made up of one member from each participating JBCPT organization and one additional member appointed by the American Optometric Association (AOA).

To become board certified, an optometrist would have to:

Be a graduate of an accredited school of optometry.

Possess an active license to practice therapeutic optometry in a state, District of Columbia, or U.S. Commonwealth or territory.

Have clearances from a search of the National Practitioner Data Bank and the Health Integrity and Protection Data Bank.

Provide a statement of adherence to the American Board of Optometry code of ethics.

Provide proof of three years active practice prior to application.

Gain 150 points through:

  Completion of a residency. If completed within three years of graduation, a residency is worth the full 150 points and waives the three-year active practice requirement. Or, if completed within 10 years of graduation, the residency is worth 100 points.

  Attaining a clinical fellowship in the American Academy of Optometry. Fellowship is worth 50 points for the cycle in which it is awarded and reduces the three-year licensure requirement to one year.

  Continuing education. Points can also be acquired through ABO-approved courses. At least 50% must be category I: CE conferences with COPE-approved courses. A maximum of 50% of points can come from category II: educational activities (e.g., posters, papers or grand rounds) provided by schools accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education or Liaison Committee on Medical Education; ABO-authorized performance-in-practice activities, such as Web-based modules, record review or peer evaluation; an education program of a college or university designed to better the participants abilities as an educator, administrator or general practitioner; distance learning courses; and scholarly activities, such as teaching, peer-reviewing manuscripts or submitting manuscripts for publication. Category III requirements are still under development, but include self-assessment modules (SAMs) that can be completed via the Internet in a few hours.

Sit for the board certification exams, which include a Patient Assessment and Management-like test and three specific area tests chosen by the optometrist.

The optometrist would need to become recertified every 10 years in three three-year stages: three SAMs (or two SAMs and one Performance in Practice Module), the requisite amount of category I or II points, and the certification exam in the ninth or 10th year of the cycle.


High Standards or Red Tape?

Members of the JBCPT claim that board certification will help demonstrate optometrists advanced competence.

It is vital to demonstrate to our patients as well as to health-care advocates, the federal government and managed-care programs, that a doctor of optometry meets high standards of competence, says Arol Augsburger, O.D., Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) representative to the JBCPT. The model that weve proposed should help us determine how the profession can best meet those demands.

Those who question board certifications ability to validate the practice of optometry worry that it will only add another layer of red tape for practicing optometrists.

We are already board certified, says Howell Findlay, O.D., Lexington, Ky. And, the meat of the program is what we already do: CE courses. If going to classes isnt adequate now, how will it be under board certification?

That we have to prove our excellence like this is the wrong idea, Dr. Findlay adds, pointing out that each state has relicensure procedures in place to ensure continued capability of optometrists. Will a new board grant us respect? Adding credentials is not going to make a difference.

Instead, he suggests, a certification process should be relatively inexpensive, accomplished without taking too much time away from the practice, and something that, when Ive finished, I have the feeling that Ive done something worthy of the time it took me to do it, and I can take better care of my patients, he says. I dont see where this proposal does that.

Deliberation on this model will take place at the AOA House of Delegates during Optometrys Meeting, June 24 to 28, in Washington. Before then, comments are being taken by each organization participating in the JBCPT.

Vol. No: 146:02Issue: 2/15/2009