AOA, ASCO launch Workforce Study Survey

May 23, 2012

This month the AOA and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) will be distributing a survey to more than 4,000 optometrists across the nation to capture optometric workforce trends.

“You could very well be one of the optometrists selected to participate in this very important workforce study,” said Randolph E. Brooks, O.D., chair of the AOA/ASCO Joint Workforce Study Project Team.

The survey will be distributed by mail and respondents will have a choice of either filling it out and mailing it in or completing the survey online.

“This study and the information that we will gain from the survey are critical in understanding the supply and demand factors affecting eye care and our profession. I strongly urge all optometrists who are selected to complete the survey, ” said Dr. Brooks.

The new workforce study is intended to provide accurate projections of eye care supply and demand in a rapidly changing health care environment, according to ASCO President Kevin L. Alexander, O.D., Ph.D.

Emerging care and payment models (some authorized under federal legislation), proposed reductions in Medicare and Medicaid funding, the aging of the U.S. population, rapidly increasing incidence of type II diabetes and other systemic health conditions, increased use of computers and other electronic devices, changes in optometric scope of practice, and the development of new vision correction technologies and eye care treatments are among the many factors that could affect supply and demand for eye and vision care over the coming years, Dr. Alexander notes.

Once the surveys have been completed, The Lewin Group, which is widely recognized as the “gold standard of health care policy research organizations,” will create a comprehensive model of supply and demand for eye and vision care in the U.S.

“Lawmakers and administrators will be able to use this information in establishing public and private sector health care policy over the coming decades,” said Dr. Brooks.

The new AOA-ASCO Optometry Workforce Study will provide objective data and analysis on the current status of the eye care market in the United States as well as a flexible model to predict changes in supply and demand in the future, according to Dr. Brooks.

A comprehensive database of all practicing eye care providers in the United States will also be developed in conjunction with the study.

“It is critical that this study be recognized by lawmakers and policy experts as the definitive assessment of supply and demand for eye and vision care in the U.S. over the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Alexander. “Our intent is to provide a resource that will be widely accepted by lawmakers and health policy experts and can be relied on as a basis for health care policy decisions in both the public and private sectors.”

Headquartered in Falls Church, Va., The Lewin Group is highly respected for providing public and private sector entities with objective policy analysis and research on health care reform and health workforce policy analysis, Dr. Brooks said.
The Lewin Group is a premier national health care and human services consulting firm that has delivered objective analyses and strategic counsel to prominent public agencies, nonprofit organizations, industry associations and private companies across the United States for nearly 40 years, Dr. Brooks said.

Lewin Group studies are guided by an extensive set of policies and procedures designed to ensure objectively and reliability. The Lewin Group deals only in data and analytical reports; the company does not advocate for policies, programs or legislation.

Considerable health care policy is already based on Lewin Group reports, the AOA-ASCO Optometry Workforce Project Team noted. The firm has authored numerous reports for U.S. Department of Health & Human Services agencies such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and National Institutes of Health. It has also studied issues for influential foundations such the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Commonwealth Fund, and Heritage Foundation.

The AOA last formally studied eye care supply and demand in 1999 with its Workforce Study of Optometry, prepared by the Cambridge, Mass.-based research organization, Abt Associates, Inc. That report was compiled well before the enactment of federal health care reform legislation, the rise of the diabetes epidemic, and serious calls for Medicare cuts, Drs. Brooks and Alexander noted.

A multidisciplinary team, consisting of an economist, a public health researcher, a statistician, a software developer and several policy analysts has already been assembled by The Lewin Group to work on the project.

The Lewin Group has also been consulting with the AOA/ASCO Joint Workforce Study Project Team and a panel of 10 experts whose professional backgrounds come from both in and outside of the optometry profession.

The entire collaborating team on this project consists of almost 20 professionals with an in-depth knowledge of optometry and workforce issues.

“Collectively, the team offers extensive experience in health care workforce research, disease burden analysis, and statistical model development,” Dr. Brooks said.

The new study is to be completed by the end of 2012, according to the project team. The planned database of practicing U.S. eye care providers is to be completed about the same time.

Such information will be essential when formulating policy on a range of issues, from health care access, to specific rules on the mix of health care professionals required on the provider panels for new health care models, Drs. Brooks and Alexander said.

After the completion of the project the database will be continuously updated, they emphasized.

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