The Society to Advance Opticianry to Launch New Ophthalmic Telemedicine Certification

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NEW YORK—The Society to Advance Opticianry (SAO) is planning to unveil a new certification program plan at the upcoming Vision Expo West conference in Las Vegas. The plan will provide new opportunities for credentialed opticians and other industry professionals to qualify and serve the public as a “Certified Visual Assessment Specialist” in Ophthalmic Telemedicine. The unveiling will be held on Saturday. Sept. 21 at 10:00 am at Level 3 LIDO, Room 3005 on Saturday, during Expo West in the Sands Expo Convention Center.

Ophthalmic telemedicine has vast potential to be an exciting and significant part of the visual health care delivery system of the future, according to an announcement from the organization. The current and rapidly growing demand for telehealth services has resulted in a strong demand for related professional skill development training initiatives. The SAO anticipates there will be a strong and growing demand for well-trained and credentialed practitioners to meet the needs of this rapidly expanding segment of the ophthalmic patient services industry.


·        It is estimated that 7000 to 9000 visual assessment practitioners will be needed within the next five-year to seven-year time frame. 


·        Credentialed professional opticians are an excellent resource to meet this demand. In a similar context, other Allied Health Professionals such as Advanced Certified Paraoptometrics and JCAHPO Certified COT’s and COMT’s upon qualification, will be a part of the delivery of service process as well.


“The SAO firmly believes that for ophthalmic telemedicine to reach its maximum potential all practitioners involved with public contact must be professional, knowledgeable, and credentialed. This approach establishes the appropriate level of fiduciary accountability. Due to the dynamic and intensive nature of the skill set required to reliably perform these advanced practice skills, the use of non-formally trained personnel would likely lead to undesirable outcomes for patients and the integrity of the professional and will not permitted for said reasons,” the announcement said. 

“As part of our ongoing commitment to elevate the standard of care, the education, training, and certification of the program we have developed which is an advanced practice concept, we firmly establish as a matter of policy, this is not a training program for entry level personnel under any circumstances and will be prohibited,” the SAO said.

In order to be eligible to take the exam for the title of “Visual Assessment Specialist,” the candidate must possess and be current in at least one of the following credentials:  

·        Possess both ABO and NCLE certification along with an associate degree from a NFOS School of Opticianry.


·        Possess both ABO and NCLE certifications along with a bachelor’s degree from a recognized college. 


·        Possess ABO advanced or NCLE advance certification or be ABOM or NCLEM certified. 


·        Be an Ophthalmic Optician (OO).


·        Be an AOA Advanced Certified Para-Optometric (CPOT).


·        Be a JCAHPO certified COT or COMT.