Board Policy Statement Regarding the Use of the Term "Board Certified"

... in Certain Credentialing Contexts


December 3, 2012

Board Policy Statement Regarding the Use of the Term “Board Certified” in Certain Credentialing Contexts

This Board for years has had a policy[1] requiring that its licensees not advertise that they are “board certified” solely by virtue of being licensed by the Board. That policy was established to prevent optometrists in this state from attempting to artificially distinguish themselves from other optometrists who hold an identical license issued by this Board. That policy remains in full force and effect.

Because of certain developments in the profession since the Board issued that policy statement, however, the Board hereby clarifies its position on the use of “board certification” in a different and limited context: for purposes of responding to certain credentialing inquiries by governmental agencies, third party payor or managed care organizations, and hospitals and other health care facilities, for example.

Recently optometry has seen attempts to invade the province of the various state optometric licensing and regulatory boards by certain organizations offering “board certified” credentials which are not based on education, training, and experience measurably beyond that possessed by other optometrists holding the same license. In a substantial number of cases, such credentials would be conferred upon optometrists in states where the statutory scope of practice is much narrower than that enjoyed by North Carolina optometrists. Given the 51 different statutory frameworks under which optometry is practiced in the United States and the absence of an optometric analog to the American Board of Medical Specialties, there currently is no national body (“board certification” or otherwise) that can speak comprehensively to the issues of credentialing and maintenance of competence/maintenance of certification in optometry for each of those 51 jurisdictions. For such determinations, credentialing organizations must look to the optometric licensing and regulatory bodies, such as this Board, that have been created by statute in each of those 51 jurisdictions.

Because there are no recognized specialties in optometry as there are in medicine (optometry is considered by most to be a specialty profession), there is no “board certification” in optometry as there is in medicine—a distinction that may not be fully appreciated by many credentialing organizations. The Board understands that when such organizations ask a North Carolina optometrist whether he or she is “board certified,” the question really is “Are you licensed to practice to the fullest extent of your statutory authority and scope of practice?” The answer to this question, with only four exceptions out of the over 1,300 optometrists licensed to practice in North Carolina, is “yes.”

Accordingly, any North Carolina licensed optometrist who is asked whether he or she is “board certified” for the purposes of credentialing by any government agency, third party payor or managed care organization, hospital, or other health care facility relating to the provision of services rendered by optometrists within North Carolina may respond “yes” to such question without violating the Board’s Policy Statement regarding the use of the term “Board Certified.”

Contact the Board’s Executive Director with any questions or concerns:

North Carolina State Board of Examiners in Optometry

800-426-4457 or 910-285-3160

[1] See Board Policy Statement regarding the use of the term “Board Certified” approved June 3, 2004 and as amended March 29, 2008, on the Board website.