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What is an ophthalmic technician?

An ophthalmic technician performs a routine eye exam on a little girl.

A certified ophthalmic technician (COT) is a specially trained technician who assists an ophthalmologist with their patients’ vision care, from routine eye exams to treating eye conditions.

Depending on experience and certification, a COT can assist an optician with measurements and even work alongside an optometrist or ophthalmologist with tests and some small procedures leading up to prescription determination. 

However, a COT is not qualified to write prescriptions or perform exams or procedures independently.

What does a certified ophthalmic technician do?

A COT (also known as a certified ophthalmic medical technician) offers important assistance to an eye doctor and has several responsibilities, including the following:

  • Preliminary evaluation and testing

  • Maintaining the safety and cleanliness of special ophthalmic equipment — both tools and machinery

  • Various office and patient file management

  • Writing and updating patient medical records

  • Assisting an ophthalmologist during exams, procedures and surgeries

  • Assisting an ophthalmologist in making a diagnosis and establishing treatment plans

  • Administering medication such as drops and other topical treatments

  • Instructing patients how to administer medication at home

SEE RELATED: What is an optician? 

Certified ophthalmic assistant

A certified ophthalmic technician (COT) is not the same thing as a certified ophthalmic assistant (COA).

The chief difference between a COT and a COA is the level of training and responsibilities each role is tasked with. A COT receives more advanced training than a COA and carries more responsibilities on a day-to-day basis.

While a COT may work alongside an opthamologist during an exam and assist with some procedures, a COA prepares a patient for an eye exam with some standard testing and pre-evaluation responsibilities.

Certified ophthalmic medical technologist

A certified ophthalmic medical technologist (COMT) requires more training and education than both a COA and COT. A COMT is a more advanced member of an eye care team, while COA and COT positions primarily support doctors.

COMTs are specially trained to operate ophthalmic imaging and diagnostic equipment, perform various eye and vision evaluations, and administer medications. Some specific responsibilities include various diagnostic testing, taking ophthalmic images and performing ultrasounds to assist with a diagnosis.

See an eye doctor

If it’s time for your annual eye exam or you have a specific vision concern, a COT may be present during your examination, vision testing or a procedure.

READ NEXT: Optometrist vs. ophthalmologist

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