‘State of Optometry’ sets profession’s path to the futureJuly 25, 2013
Optometry’s Meeting® attendees got a good look at the present and a glimpse of the future during the State of Optometry summit in June.
Presented by AOAExcel™ and Jobson Optical Group, with co-sponsors Essilor and VisionWeb, the summit offered “An Action-Oriented Analysis of the State of the Optometric Profession.”
The actionable analytics can “help optometry take advantage of the opportunities,” said Barry Barresi, O.D., Ph.D., AOA executive director and AOAExcel™ CEO.
The analysis breaks the current status of optometry and its role in delivering eye care to the public into six influencers: output, supply, demand, government, payers, and technology.
Review of Optometric Business Professional Editor Mark Wright, O.D., offered an overview of optometry’s current spot in the marketplace.
“Optometry dominates the primary eye care market,” he noted. “But has not optimized the frequency of patient visits.”
Currently, optometrists account for 85 percent of comprehensive eye exams with an average interval of 25 months between exams.
“This is well above the 12-month recommendation,” Dr. Wright said.
“If ODs were to reduce the average interval between eye exams from 25 months to 18 months, ODs would perform an additional 34 million eye exams annually, a 39 percent increase,” according to the report.
Other suggestions to improve output include:
- Improve recall processes
- Upgrade eyewear purchase experiences
- Broaden scope of practice
In 2012, there were 58,000 licensed eye care providers in the U.S., and by 2020 there are projected to be 64,300. The vision correction population is expected to grow just 8 percent during the same timeframe.
“With one licensed eye care provider per 3,500 people using vision correction, there is no under supply,” Dr. Wright said.
The report suggests the number of practicing ODs will grow faster than demand for vision care, but slower than demand for medical eye care.
Strategies to improve supply include:
- Differentiate the practice’s value proposition and fill in gaps to medical eye care access
- Increase hourly production
Increased demand from existing patients and expanded care for older populations and those at risk for eye disease offer opportunities for optometry.
Nearly 200 million Americans require vision correction, which is 65 percent of the population.
As the baby boomer generation ages, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the over-55 population will grow by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020. In turn, a 2 percent annual increase in the number of patients with diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and age-related eye diseases will occur.
Priorities to increase patient demand for eye care services include:
- Improve patient education to increase utilization of eye care
- Market medical eye care services
- Capture new demand from expansion of eye care benefits, including government and other third-party plans
“We’re confident optometry will not only survive, but thrive,” said Dr. Wright.
As the scope of optometric practice continues to expand, the AOA and affiliates remain active in educating lawmakers about the profession.
A focus on advocacy led to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to define essential pediatric benefits as a yearly eye exam and materials, resulting in increased access to optometric services.
The AOA and affiliates will continue to address state laws regarding access, reimbursement and provider non-discrimination.
“The AOA and affiliates have done a remarkable job at putting the tools in place for optometry,” said Stephen M. Montaquila, O.D., AOA Third Party Center Executive Committee chair.
To continue expanding OD scope, the profession must encourage the following:
- Maintaining strong affiliate and AOA associations
- Pursuing lifelong learning
Third-party reimbursement accounts continue to play a growing role as revenue sources.
Optometrists reported two-thirds of revenue in 2011 coming from third-party sources, and only one-third coming directly from patients.
Effects from Medicaid expansion, the baby boomer increase in Medicare patients, accountable care organizations and mandated insurance coverage will all impact revenue from payers.
Optometrists should keep the following in mind:
- Understanding of contracts
- Understanding of the changing marketplace
- Recognition of opportunities
Paul E. McRae of AT&T Business Solutions offered a brief overview of the impact of new technologies on eye care. AT&T is a partner of AOAExcel™ and its health information technology connectivity solution.
New and emerging technologies are expected to expand and enhance diagnostic, management and communications capabilities for optometrists.
In 2012, 49 percent of ODs reported using electronic health records (EHRs), and an additional 18 percent said they planned to add an EHR system during the year.
McRae noted the new trend of cloud-based EHR systems, which are essential to connect with registries, health care providers, and third-party payers.
“It’s imperative that you embrace the technology,” McRae said. “With AOAExcel™ the AOA is giving you a path to success.”
Dr. Barresi echoed that emphasis.
“What we’re providing is a community,” he said. “The future of health IT is the cloud.”