Dr. Hudson: Support SB 440. Allow health-care providers to use their education, training

Dr. Sarah J. Hudson
Guest Columnist

When you need an eye care procedure you want it done by a trusted eye doctor who has the appropriate education and who has demonstrated competency. Does that mean you need an ophthalmologist for any procedure near your eye?

Senate Bill 440 is set to update New Hampshire statute to allow doctors of optometry to practice to the full extent of their training and education commensurate with national standards of optometry. It will allow doctors of optometry to increase the amount of in-office procedures they are authorized to do in New Hampshire. Healthcare is not the same as it was 25 years ago and the laws should reflect these well-established changes. Doctors wishing to perform these will need to display competency through a process defined by the state regulatory board, as is standard across all healthcare boards in New Hampshire. No doctor will perform such a procedure without extensive education, laboratory learning, and hands-on supervised experience.

Sarah Hudson, OD

Dr. Warren Goldblatt’s commentary, published March 31 is misleading, and is designed to promote fear and to discredit optometry in an effort to hold pphthalmology’s turf on scope of practice. Our health-care system functions best if all practitioners provide care to the full extent of their education and training. Access to care is a concern in all parts of New Hampshire, and this will worsen as our population ages. Technology updates bring new treatment options to all healthcare fields and our population will suffer if practitioners are not allowed to provide these updates. Health care does not, and should not stand still. 

Various doctoral and non-doctoral level health-care professionals perform multiple versions of minor procedures in New Hampshire every day. The truth is, doctors of optometry have been performing in-office surgical procedures in New Hampshire and around the country for decades. The expanded procedures that are a part of this effort include the removal of benign eyelid lesions (skin tags for example), done in 18 other states and laser assisted procedures currently being done in 12 states. These exact procedures, some being done by doctors of optometry for over 25 years in these states, have proven safe and effective. Schools of optometry have taught these procedures for decades, yet here in New Hampshire, doctors are prohibited by outdated laws, and must refer patients to ophthalmology. This creates added appointments, duplication of care, increased costs, delays to care, as well as travel time and expenses that are unnecessary. In parts of New Hampshire, the delays in care can be months, and travel time to achieve care is hours. This is challenging if you are asking a neighbor, friend, or family to transport you. There are a number of doctors of optometry who have moved to New Hampshire after practicing in other states where they performed these procedures for years, yet they are prohibited from doing so in New Hampshire.

SB 440 is logical and should pass the New Hampshire House as it did in the Senate, out of committee with a unanimous ought to pass recommendation. Our legislators devote significant time and energy researching and understanding difficult topics to make decisions on our behalf. I am confident SB 440 will pass on its merits.

Dr. Sarah J. Hudson is an optometrist and an owner of Harbor Eyecare Center in Exeter.