position statement

Patient talking to optometrist online
COVID-19 has had demonstrable effects on the provision of optometry services, most notably in the restriction of access to vision care during the first wave of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and clinic closures created the need for alternate patient care modes to ensure the safety of patients, staff, and optometrists resulting in teleoptometry becoming a particularly valuable modality for vision care services.
Group of children in front of a screen
The prevalence of electronic screen-related ocular symptoms is estimated as high as 50–90% in adult electronic screen users. Due to a lack of scientific literature in the area, the corresponding statistic is not known for children. Children’s use of electronic screens, however, has become more commonplace (home and school), 4a begins earlier in childhood than in the past,5a and can last for long periods of time.
Street lights at dusk
Most LED lights emit a cool white light that is brighter and more likely to create glare than traditional lighting. LED lights can also emit a large amount of blue light which is known to scatter in the atmosphere and make it harder for the human eye to focus. This glare may be especially debilitating for drivers and pedestrians with less than perfect vision.
Smiling girl with new glasses
Optometrists practising in rural and remote settings may face a number of specific challenges. These include a broad patient demographic and wide-ranging patient needs, professional isolation, limited referral options to other ODs and healthcare providers, and lack of access to nearby onsite continuing education. Other challenges may include a lack of locum support, difficulty locating qualified employees and associate ODs, and difficulty with succession planning.

According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s urban/rural population is an 80/20 split.ii Canada’s rural population is older than the urban population, and Canada’s rural population is aging faster than their urban counterparts in terms of the change in the share of the population that is senior.iii Since visual impairment is correlated with age, providing optometric care in rural and remote regions of Canada can also be challenging because of the likelihood of eye disease, visual impairment, and blindness among elderly patients. The continued presence of a sustainable rural and remote optometry workforce is therefore essential to maintain appropriate levels of accessible primary eye care in rural and remote regions of Canada.
Man in a laboratory looking at a report
Evidence-based decision-making can be thought of as a process in which clinical decisions are made in light of the best research evidence, the practitioner’s existing expertise and knowledge, and the patient’s needs and preferences within the context of the clinic environment.i Evidence- based decision-making is an important element of quality care in a wide range of health services and is integral to effect changes across the health care system.
Young male optometrist looking a an eye on a screen
Though nothing can replace a comprehensive eye examination, rapid advances in diagnostic imaging and assessment technologies for eye care have created an opportunity for Canada’s optometrists to enhance patient care through telemedicine.
Young woman working on a computer
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) is concerned about the safety of online ‘eye exams’ being made available to the public. Consumers need to be aware that the determination of a person's refractive error (the lens power required to correct faulty vision) without the eyes being physically examined by a Doctor of Optometry or an Ophthalmologist (medical eye doctor) is NOT an eye exam. Anyone claiming to have performed an eye exam without physically examining the person and doing an eye health assessment is misleading him or her that their eye health needs have been met.
Optometrist giving a young woman an eye exam
The need for periodic optometric examination has been recognized for many years. Vision and ocular health conditions are not always accompanied by recognizable symptoms. There is often an increased risk to the patient if treatment is not initiated in a timely manner. Relying on the occurrence of obvious symptoms in order to initiate an eye examination exposes the patient to an unnecessary risk.