How to Become an Optometric Assistant
- If you want to learn how to become an optometric assistant, familiarize yourself with the skills, training, and certification necessary to perform the job.
- An optometric assistant keeps optometry practice operations organized and assists providers in various patient-facing tasks.
- Optometric assistants must possess strong organizational and people skills to excel in the position.
- Optometric training involves understanding ocular anatomy, contact and glasses fitting, and optometric insurance coding.
- To increase employment opportunities, most optometric assistants get certified through the AOA.
- A cloud-based, integrated optometry EHR supports optometric assistants in managing a well-organized, efficient optometry practice
If you are curious about learning how to become an optometric assistant, you must familiarize yourself with the role that a paraoptometric assistant plays in an optometry practice. This includes the skills, training, and certifications needed to excel in this career.
By pursuing paraoptometric certification through an American Optometric Association (AOA) recognized training program, you can increase your hireability in the optometric assistant field.
A career as an optometric assistant is a rewarding role that lets you help patients obtain vital services while also playing a crucial role in patient management and practice workflow behind the scenes.
Optometry assistants, also called optometric assistants or paraoptometric assistants, play a vital role in optometry practices. They manage day-to-day operations in an optometry practice, such as patient scheduling, billing, and insurance claims.
Optometric assistants also ensure the practice remains clean and tidy and help patients with contact and glasses fittings after their appointment.
Jobs in the optometric assistant industry are currently in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the optometry field will grow by 9% by 2030.
To become an optometric assistant, you must hold a GED or high school diploma. However, training as an optometric assistant through a respected certification program can help you land a higher-paid position within this in-demand field.
What Does an Optometric Assistant Do?
Although an optometric assistant doesn’t conduct eye exams, diagnose disorders, or treat patients, they perform a wide variety of important patient management tasks.
As an optometric assistant, you can expect to manage patient scheduling, oversee billing and insurance processing, perform patient intake, order eyecare products, and ensure the practice is clean and welcoming.
A significant portion of an optometric assistant’s job includes crucial practice management tasks that keep the practice running smoothly for patients and providers.
These tasks may include:
- Coordinating staff and provider schedules
- Scheduling patients
- Answering phones
- Sorting and distributing mail
- Replying to emails
- Maintaining social media accounts
- Cleaning and sanitizing practice surfaces
- Billing and insurance processing
- Tracking and ordering office supplies
You may have great organizational skills that will help you excel in your role as an optometric assistant; however, you will also need training in optometric billing and insurance coding to perform accurate bookkeeping for your practice.
Optometrist & Optician Support
Depending on your level of training and experience and the size of the practice, you will perform a number of supportive duties for providers in the practice.
Your responsibilities may include:
- Assessing eye health and vision through patient screening tools
- Answering patient questions surrounding eye health
- Operating optometrical equipment
- Assist with vision acuity testing and pupil distance measurement
- Aid provider in-depth and color perception testing
- Administer eye drops before eye exams
- Seat patients at the appropriate eye-testing machines
To perform these functions well, you will need basic training in optometry terminology and equipment usage. You can get this knowledge through an AOA-recognized training and certification program.
Patient Service Representative
Optometric assistants function as patient service representatives for the optometry practice. You are often the first person a patient sees when they walk in the door and their main point of contact to ask questions, schedule future appointments, and order eyecare products.
Your role as a patient service representative may include duties such as:
- Tracking and ordering eyecare products
- Answering patient questions
- Greeting patients
- Performing the intake process
- Providing education on the proper contact lenses and eyeglass care
- Modifying contact lenses orders
- Adjusting or repairing glasses frames
In addition to these patient-facing duties, you will also serve as a communication liaison between insurance companies, eyecare product manufacturers and suppliers, and the practice. You may also speak with software companies regarding your EHR practice management system or regulatory entities.
Skills Necessary for an Optometric Assistant
An optometric assistant must have interpersonal, organizational, and technical skills to perform their job at a high level. When considering a career as an optometric assistant, assess whether you naturally have these skills or if you need to work on developing them through optometric training and certification.
Interpersonal skills include the ability to juggle varied communication styles and needs with finesse. As an optometric assistant, you will work with many patients throughout the day in addition to providers, co-workers, and outside companies. You must be able to handle all types of communication, including implementing conflict resolution strategies with difficult patients.
The better you can juggle your administrative tasks with the interpersonal needs of those in the optometry practice, the better you’ll perform in your role.
A successful optometric assistant must have good organizational skills. Most of your daily work pertains to office management tasks like scheduling, filing documents, entering patient information, and processing insurance claims and billing statements.
You must maintain an organized workflow to ensure that the practice runs smoothly and avoid scheduling issues or incorrectly entered patient data. You must also have strong attention to detail to manage patient billing and insurance claims to ensure a predictable cash flow for the practice.
Technical training is necessary for optometric assistants. You must familiarize yourself with optometry equipment and how to use these tools accurately. A well-rounded optometric assistant training program will introduce you to the basics of optometry equipment and screening machines and improve your performance on the job.
Optometric Assistant Training
When exploring how to become an optometric assistant, understanding what’s involved in paraoptometric training is essential. A comprehensive training program from a reputable institution may offer both in-person and online training options for optometric assistants.
Training program lengths vary, from short, certification-level courses to two-year associate degrees.
While each training course will follow a specific curriculum, you can expect to cover the following coursework topics during your training:
- Patient scheduling
- Obtaining patient history
- Optometry patient communication
- Maintaining medical records
- Optometry billing and coding
- Ordering contacts and glasses
- How to fit contacts and glasses
- Optometry equipment and tool usage
- Best eyecare practices for patients
- Basics on vision and color testing
- Ocular terminology
- Basic understanding of ocular diseases and their causes
Your optometric assistant training course may also cover insurance regulations for Medicare and Medicaid and private insurance claims processing. You’ll also likely receive training in HIPAA compliance, documentation regulations, and workers’ compensation issues.
Optometric Assistant Certification
Although certification and licensure are not required at a federal or state level, many optometrists look for candidates who have paraoptometric certification from an AOA-vetted program.
The AOA offers four levels of certification for optometric assistants. To receive certification, you must complete an approved training course and pass an examination administered by the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). After passing your exam, you’ll need to renew your certification every three years.
The four AOA certification programs include:
- Certified Paraoptometric (CPO) – entry-level certification
- Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA) – intermediate level certification
- Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT) – advanced level certification
- Certified Paraoptometric Coder (CPOC) – specialty level certification
Each level of certification suits different career goals and experience. For example, CPO certification is ideal for those looking for entry-level optometric assistant positions and who have undergone basic training in the field. A CPOT certification reflects a deeper understanding of optometric care. CPOC certification is ideal for someone interested in focusing on optometric billing and coding rather than general paraoptometric duties.
Exam fees for certification range from $285 to $305, with a $100 non-refundable administration fee.
For specific questions about certification requirements and eligibility, reference the AOA certification candidate handbook.
RevolutionEHR and Optometric Assistants
Working as an optometric assistant requires you to manage the workflow of the entire optometry practice. A completely integrated optometry EHR system like RevolutionEHR can support you in your practice management duties.
RevolutionEHR is an all-in-one practice management solution and gives you access to excellent customer support. With RevolutionEHR, you can access practice management software from any location to ensure that you manage patient and provider schedules and other important tasks.
RevolutionEHR simplifies patient intake, billing and insurance processing and allows for convenient online scheduling so you can focus on other crucial optometric assistant tasks. It also boasts a patient communication tool that sends automatic appointment reminders and email campaigns to make your job easier.
Request a demo today to learn more about how RevolutionEHR simplifies the role of an optometric assistant and increases efficiency for the entire practice.