ST. LOUIS—Wyoming’s approval of contemporary optometric procedures, including laser and excision authorities, goes down in history as the first time in a single year that two states accomplished the scope expansion, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Optometry’s advocates secured historic progress in Wyoming as the state becomes the second this year to authorize certain surgical procedures, bolstering patients’ access to essential primary eye health care, AOA said in a post on its site. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on April 2 signed into law Wyoming HB 39, a comprehensive act amending the state’s optometric scope of practice to permit YAG laser capsulotomy, selective laser trabeculoplasty, laser iridotomy and lesions removal, as well as amending doctors’ of optometry drug prescribing authority and granting board authority. Significantly, Wyoming’s scope expansion not only affords patients greater accessibility to primary eye health care services, provided by their local doctors of optometry, but also represents the first time in optometry’s history that two states have approved scope expansions for advanced procedures in the same year, according to AOA.

Dana Day, OD, Wyoming Optometric Association (WOA) legislative chair, said the passage of HB 39 represents a considerable improvement in the delivery of eyecare, allowing current and graduating doctors of optometry to practice full-scope optometric care to the ultimate benefit of their patients.

“Doctors of optometry will be more directly involved in the overall patient health management with more direct coordination of care in both primary and specialty physician services,” Day told AOA.

“Delays in treatment will be improved as patient can be treated acutely with no further referral being required or while being transitioned to the proper specialty care. Patients will benefit from an overall savings in health care expenditures as repetitive examinations, travel time and time off work will be reduced, too.”

Wyoming’s scope expansion hinged on optometry’s demonstrated proficiency in safely delivering these procedures, which the profession is educated and trained to provide, with widespread accessibility in a vastly rural state. And that’s not an understatement—the Wyoming Department of Public Health notes that a whopping 17 of 23 counties have fewer than six people per square mile, otherwise known as “frontier” land. In fact, about half of Wyoming’s residents live in frontier areas where health care access issues remain seriously unaddressed, according to AOA.

Such is the case, the WOA convincingly argued that with optometric practices located in 22 of 23 counties in Wyoming, scope expansion afforded patients greater options to receive primary eye health care services in the communities they reside. The argument gained even more credibility as the WOA pointed to optometry’s essential role during recent COVID-19 surges, triaging urgent and emergent eye cases outside of overburdened hospitals or emergency departments.

However, more than anything, it was the grassroots involvement of the WOA’s membership that ensured the scope measure first brought forward almost two years ago would gain the bipartisan support necessary to succeed, the AOA noted.

“The success of Wyoming’s legislative efforts resides squarely on the incredible involvement of the members of the Wyoming Optometric Association,” Day said. “Wyoming has always boasted a high membership percentage, which resulted in a more unified approach to scope expansion. Many of our doctors provided financial support, but the volunteer time and personal relationships with legislators were really key to this legislative win.”