Estimating Eye Care Provider Supply and Workforce Requirements

Published in: Ophthalmology, v. 102, no. 12, Dec. 1995, p. 1964-1972

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 1994

by Paul Lee, Catherine A. Jackson, Daniel A. Relles

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PURPOSE: To estimate the workforce supply and requirements for eye care in the United States. METHODS: Three models were constructed for analysis: supply of providers, public health need for eye care, and demand (utilization) for eye care. Ophthalmologists, other physicians, and optometrists were included in the models. Public health need was determined by applying condition-specific prevalence and incidence rates from population-based and other epidemiologic studies. Demand was determined by use of national databases, such as the National Ambulatory Care Survey, National Hospital Discharge Survey, and Medicare Part B. Time requirements for care were obtained through a stratified sample survey of the membership of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. RESULTS: Under modeling assumptions that use a work-time ratio of one between optometrists and ophthalmologists and between specialist and generalist ophthalmologists, a significant excess of eye care providers exists relative to both public health need and demand. Changes in the work-time ratio, work-hours per year per provider, care patterns for the same condition, or other factors could significantly reduce or eliminate the surplus relative to need. CONCLUSION: If optometrists are the preferred primary eye care provider, ophthalmologists would be in excess under all demand scenarios and all need scenarios where the optometrist to ophthalmologist work-time ratio is greater than 0.6. No excess of ophthalmologists would exist if ophthalmologists are the preferred primary eye care provider. Data on the appropriate work time ratio will help refine estimates of the imbalance between supply and requirements.

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