The most divisive issue in optometry continues to be whether general practice optometrists should take additional CE hours “above” those required for license renewals and then pass additional periodic examinations “beyond” the multiple NBEO examinations they had to pass for graduation and initial licensing in order to become “board certified” by the American Board of Optometry (ABO).
The ABO believes optometrists should go “above and beyond” what it calls the “minimum” standards and training required for graduation, licensing and then license renewals and seek to become “board certified” by ABO. See Note 1.
The ABO credential is not required by any state licensing board or health/vision plan. Since ABO does not require residency training in a specialty or passage of a specialist examination it is also not a specialty board.
ABO refuses to recognize that medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, and podiatry only award “board certification” to those who complete specialty residency training and pass specialty examinations after licensing.
And to support ABO the AOA will close, next year, its annual Optometric Recognition Award, established in 1975 and given by the AOA President each year to AOA members completing more CE hours than required for license renewal.
The ABO remains criticized by many because:
- All other Medicare physician groups offer board certifications only to residency-trained specialists within their professions. Optometry is a profession and not a specialty of a profession.
- ABO continues to imply its certification will become required by health plans which has not, and will not happen due to restraint of trade statues.
- ABO suggests those it certifies will be seen by the public as being “above” other optometrists which pits optometrists against each other.
- No optometry, medical, dental, osteopathic or podiatry state licensing boards require board certification though all those professions have board certified specialties.
- By established (settled) law, the requirements to practice optometry remain a professional degree and a state license and the power to regulate optometry is reserved by the states and not the federal government.
Still, ABO continues to try to blur the line between its “substitute board certification” and real specialty board certification by now offering a reduced fee of $500 rather than $950, to residents and new graduates if they take the ABO examinations within 10 years of graduation.
Residents training in medical optometry should understand:
- ABCMO is a specialty board that requires passage of the Advanced Competence in Medical Optometry examination offered by NBEO after completing an accredited medical optometry residency.
- Only ABCMO board certification is accepted and required for appointment as a specialist in medical optometry at health facilities accredited by the Joint Commission. See Note 2.
Although optometry residencies only began in 1975, today 30% of graduates enter into residency training in a specialty.
Those serving residencies in specialties without a certifying body will eventually set up specialty boards to certify them.
In addition there are learned societies they can join now (Optometric Glaucoma Society, Optometric Retinal Society) and low vision, blind rehabilitation and visual training groups and the Diplomate program at the American Academy of Optometry and special interest groups
1. No data was ever presented by those creating ABO to show there was a need for additional training and testing of licensed optometrists in general practice and optometry malpractice insurance rates remain remarkably low. In addition to the costs and time required to become ABO certification, costs and time are required to attend courses and take exams to “maintain” ABO certification. These programs are called Maintenance of Certification (MOC).
2. The Joint Commission is the Gold Standard for accreditation. It inspects and accredits over 21,000 US health care programs. The credentialing committees required at Joint Commission accredited facilities recognize and accept ABCMO board certification.
The Joint Commission is also known by its previous names, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH).