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Policy on Leasing Space from a
General Corporation or an Unlicensed Individual

Doctors of Optometry are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. To be "independent" the optometrist must be free from the influence, guidance or control of another or others.

Optometrists are licensed by the State of Ohio to practice the profession of optometry. Ohio Revised Code 4725.33 was enacted to permit legally, authorized forms of business entities for providing these services. However, an optometrist cannot work for an unlicensed individual or an optician except in a not for profit corporation or foundation.

If an optometrist leases space from a general corporation or an unlicensed individual, the optometrist shall do so on a flat rate basis. This will protect the licensee's professional autonomy and independence from the corporation or individual owner. The patient care, maintenance of records, pricing of professional fees, acceptance of managed health plans, hours/days of operation and all other professional judgments are the responsibility of the licensed optometrist. These professional decisions cannot be determined by any other entity and therefore shall not be part of a flat rate lease. This will ensure that corporation and individual ownership objectives do not influence clinical decisions and the licensee's primary responsibility to the patient. In fact, the performance of optometric services for the public, while under the direct or indirect control of a corporation or individual owner, constitutes "dishonesty and unprofessional conduct" and could subject the licensee to disciplinary sanctions. An optometrist cannot be paid on an hourly, weekly or per examination basis or have fees supplemented by a non-professional corporation or unlicensed individual as this constitutes direct employment.

Any outside control, either direct or indirect, can adversely effect the independent and autonomous environment that is both mandated and legislated to this profession. In fact, the following sentence from Ohio Administrative Rule 4725-5-06 which permits the leasing of space from a general corporation or an unlicensed individual states: "The intent of this rule is to maintain the licensee's professional autonomy from the corporation or individual owner." An optometrist can be neither independent nor autonomous if a lease agreement contains language which mandates specific hours, days, pricing of professional fees, managed health care plans or any other professional judgments that are the sole discretion of the practitioner. Nothing in the regulation indicates that indirect control should be interpreted as a matter of degree. Like direct control, indirect control is strictly prohibited. As such, unlicensed entities shall have no control over an optometrist's business, whether it be through a contractual relationship or by a lease agreement.

This statement should not be construed as a new policy, but rather as an attempt to clarify existing law. Such clarification is intended for the benefit of the optometrist and the public as a way to promote better understanding of the laws and rules governing the practice of optometry. The licensee should consider consulting with an attorney prior to entering into a professional business contract or lease.

Revised and approved by the Board October 19, 2005