It has been brought to our attention that the BCMJ recently included advertising for Doctors of Optometry with a full-page ad and a rolling advertisement bar on the online version.
There is great confusion among the public about the words ophthalmologist and optometrist, with no understanding that an ophthalmologist is a physician and an optometrist is not. The use of the title Dr by optometrists reinforces the confusion, and the new advertising campaign by the profession of optometry using the byline “doctor-delivered” is consolidating the blurring of the significant difference.
We are very concerned that optometrists are presenting themselves now not only to the public but to general practitioners and family physicians as the primary providers of “doctor-delivered” eye care.
We point out that all the eye health services provided by optometrists are provided by ophthalmologists and at no charge to the patient. Precisely because optometrists are not physicians, they are self-regulating, self-governing, and do not fall under the Canada Health Act. This allows them to extra bill the patient over and above MSP payments for all services provided.
Patient confusion and any potential physician confusion about whether optometrists are physicians and provide the same level of health service as ophthalmologists are not in the best interests of patients. We note in your mission statement the focus on physicians, being “by BC physicians, for BC physicians.”
Optometrists are not physicians. Do you accept advertising from naturopaths, midwives, and other allied health professionals?
We wish to express our deep concern that this type of advertising is not appropriate for a journal that presents itself as distinctly medical and by and for physicians to include advertising from a nonphysician group presenting themselves as doctors without explanation that they are not physicians, do not have physician training and experience, are not governed by the Canada Health Act, and extra bill patients as a matter of course.
—D.S. Dhanda, MD, FRCSC
President, BC Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
Potential advertisements for the BCMJ are evaluated on an individual basis, and the revenue generated from advertisements is used to reduce the cost of the journal to Doctors of BC members. We were confident that family physicians are aware of the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists and didn’t realize that the ad in question would be upsetting to ophthalmologists. We apologize for any hard feelings this may have caused. —ED
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