Trends in the U.S. Eye Care Workforce
By Lynda Seminara
Selected By: Richard K. Parrish II, MD
American Journal of Ophthalmology, October 2020
In response to predictions that ophthalmology will have the largest workforce shortage among surgical specialties by 2025, Feng et al. gathered data from the 2017 Area Health Resources File to explore temporal and geographic personnel trends in recent years. They found that the proportion of ophthalmologists has decreased in the past two decades, while that of optometrists has increased. Moreover, rural areas continue to have disproportionately fewer eye care provides than do other areas.
Outcome measures of the study included the density of practicing ophthalmologists and optometrists per 100,000 individuals, on a county level. The counties were classified as metropolitan, nonmetropolitan, or rural, and various characteristics of their populations were documented. Ophthalmologists also were classified by age group (e.g., older or younger than 55).
From 1995 to 2017, the density of ophthalmologists in the United States declined from 6.30 to 5.68 per 100,000 individuals. For optometrists, density grew from 11.06 in 1990 to 16.16 per 100,000 individuals in 2017. Although the density of ophthalmologists in rural counties increased 2.26% from 1995 to 2017, the density in those counties was significantly lower (0.58) than in nonmetropolitan (2.19) or metropolitan areas (6.29). The ratio of older (>55 years) to younger (<55 years) ophthalmologists rose from 0.37 in 1995 to 0.82 in 2017, with the greatest ratio increase—from 0.29 to 1.90—taking place in rural counties.
The authors suggested several potential reasons for the disparity of available ophthalmologists in rural counties, including insufficient health care infrastructure.
The original article can be found here.