CONTACT: Laura Haywood, 501-529-3322

January 22, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – According to a new statewide poll, nearly 65% of Arkansas voters oppose legislation that would allow optometrists to perform eye surgeries with lasers and scalpels. Currently, only specially trained medical doctors, such as ophthalmologists, can perform those types of procedures.

The poll, conducted by Impact Management Group for the Arkansas Medical Society, found that 64.94% of Arkansas voters opposed these changes, with 48.41% of Arkansas voters “strongly opposing” them.

“The results show that Arkansas voters recognize the importance of the training and expertise that ophthalmologists bring to their eye health,” said Arkansas Medical Society President R. Lee Archer, MD. “The voters do not want to see the standard of care diminished when it comes to the health of the only two eyes they will ever have.”

When survey respondents were given information about the differences in training and education required to become licensed as an optometrist and an ophthalmologist, opposition to the proposal increased to 79.48%, with 61.35% strongly opposed.

“Arkansans overwhelmingly oppose the idea of non-surgically trained eyecare professionals being allowed to perform eye and eyelid surgeries”, said Robert Coon, Managing Partner of Impact Management Group, which designed and conducted the survey. “While proponents of this legislation have argued that it would make these procedures more accessible to patients, it is clear from the results of this survey that patient safety and proper medical training are the top priorities for Arkansans.”

When asked which factor would be more important to them – having a surgical procedure performed by a licensed medical doctor trained in eye surgery or having it performed at a more convenient location, but not by a medical doctor or trained surgeon – 93.22% of Arkansans surveyed said they would opt for a licensed and trained medical doctor, while only 3.19% favored a more convenient access.

“Arkansans overwhelmingly prefer a properly-trained medical doctor who is an expert in intricate eye surgeries compared to more convenient access,” said Scott Lowery, M.D., an ophthalmologist and President of the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society. “The poll data proves that Arkansas voters are savvy and understand that proper training and experience is key to protecting the eye health of themselves and their families.”

The survey was conducted among 502 likely voters January 7 – January 9, 2019, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.37%.