Optometry coalition pushes for new Texas eye care laws

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AUSTIN -- Dr. Laurie Sorrenson says when she finds out a patient of hers at Lakeline Vision Source has dry eye syndrome, there's a roadblock she hits when providing care. 

"We are allowed to prescribe oral antibiotics for 10 days only," Sorrenson said about the state's laws for optometrists. 

If a patient is found to have glaucoma, Sorrenson is also required by law to confirm the diagnosis with an ophthalmologist. 

The Cedar Park optometrist says it is a burden on the patient to have to wait and slows down care.

Situations like this are why a group of optometrists in Texas launched a coalition called Focus Texas. It aims to draw attention to certain laws optometrists say hinder their ability to serve their patients in a timely and effective fashion. 

"Right now, optometrists are practicing and taking care of our patients with a law that's almost 20 years old," Sorrenson said. "Technology has changed. Education has changed dramatically over the last 20 years." 

However, the Texas Ophthalmological Association says it is opposed "to any attempt to expand non-physicians' scope of practice beyond their education, training and experience." Optometrists receive a Doctor of Optometry after their training and ophthalmologists are required to complete medical school and a residency program. 

"Ophthalmologists do a lot of things that optometrists don't do because of their training and their experience," Dr. Halsey Settle of Broberg Eye Care in Austin said. "We do all sorts of surgical procedures, glaucoma procedures." 

Because of how complicated diagnosing conditions in the eyes can be, Settle says he will have to seek a third opinion sometimes in certain glaucoma cases. 

"Sometimes I have glaucoma patients I have to send to glaucoma subspecialists because I'm not really sure," he said. "It's a very complicated disease." 

Focus Texas hopes lawmakers will consider expanding optometrists' scope of practice in the next legislative session. 

"I think right now what we would like to see is completely new legislation and get rid of the backwards, outdated law that we currently have to take care of our patients with," Sorrenson said.


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