11 things to know about ophthalmology

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Ophthalmology is one of the top three most popular ASC specialties. Here are 11 things to know.

1. Ophthalmology makes up the largest percentage of procedures performed in ASCs, according to a 2013 Outpatient Surgical Centers Industry Overview report from Hoover. Ophthalmology makes up 30 percent of all surgeries each year in surgery centers.

2. The popularity of the ophthalmology service line in ASCs is evident. The specialty is offered by the highest percentage of both urban and rural ASCs is ophthalmology. Fifty-four percent of urban ASCs and 65 percent of rural ASCs offer eye surgery services. 

3. Here are four statistics on ASC case volume for ophthalmology procedures from VMG Health's Multi-Specialty ASC Intellimarker:

•    All facilities: 17 percent
•    Less than 3,000 procedures: 13 percent
•    3,000 to 5,999 procedures: 18 percent
•    6,000 or more procedures: 17 percent

4. Ophthalmologists' annual average salary is $292,000, according to a Medscape Ophthalmologist Compensation Report 2015. Self-employed ophthalmologists earn more ($329,000) than employed ophthalmologists ($244,000). However, only 38 percent of eye surgeons say they fairly compensated whereas 46 percent of employed eye surgeons feel the same.
5. The average annual salaries of ophthalmologists in different U.S. regions, according to the Medscape report, are:

•    Northeast — $328,000
•    Northwest — $314,000
•    West — $306,000
•    Great Lakes — $298,000
•    Mid-Atlantic — $286,000
•    Southeast — $286,000
•    North Central — $266,000
•    South Central — $265,000
•    Southwest — $252,000

6. Here are five statistics on ophthalmologist net worth, according to Medscape's Physician Debt and Net Worth Report 2015.

•    Under $500,000 — 30 percent
•    $500,000 - $999,999 — 17 percent
•    $1 million - $1,999,999 — 22 percent
•    $2 million - $5 million — 23 percent
•    Over $5 million — 8 percent

Note: All percentages are approximations.

7. Most ophthalmologists (38 percent) only occasionally discuss cost of treatments with their patients, according to the Medscape Ophthalmologist Compensation Report 2015. Around 17 percent discuss costs if the patient brings up the subject and 9 percent never discuss costs because either they don’t know the cost themselves or because they feel that it is inappropriate.

8. There are also a number of cases of physician burnout among ophthalmologists. Here are the top five reasons, according to a Medscape report:

•    Too many bureaucratic tasks — 4.98
•    Impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act — 4.29
•    Increasing computerization of practice — 4.23
•    Spending too many hours at work — 3.54
•    Income not high enough — 3.51

Note: Ophthalmologists were asked to rank causes of burnout on a scale of one (not at all important) to seven (extremely important).

9. The North America ophthalmology surgery devices market is also estimated to grow rapidly. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5 percent to around $4.2 billion by 2019.

10. An ASC Quality Reporting Program measure — "ASC-11: Cataracts: Improvements in Patient's Visual Function within 90 Days Following Cataract Surgery" — is a voluntary measure, according to CMS' final 2015 ASC payment rule.

The measure was supposed to be implemented in 2014. But, following advocacy from the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, American Academy of Ophthalmology, Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society and Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, the implementation was delayed. CMS stated that it "recognizes the operational difficulties with this specific measure." Thus, in its 2015 rule, the measure was made voluntary.

11. Eye surgery centers are certainly investing in state-of-the-art technology to offer their patients high-quality care. But the question of whether or not they should invest in an EHR remains. A recent JAMA Ophthalmology study found that implementation of an EHR in an ophthalmology practice had no significant impact on revenue or productivity.

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