Outlook for ophthalmology in 5 years

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Ophthalmologists expect to see a large growth in new technology and surgical offerings, recruitment challenges and continued consolidation of practices over the next five years.

Here, three ophthalmologists share their industry predictions:

Chris Ketcherside, MD. Kansas City Eye Clinic (Overland Park, Kansas): The percentage of patients that have elected to have premium lenses has been fairly stagnant for the last several years. As we emerge from the pandemic, our patients seem more willing to spend money on [these], and they have the disposable income to do it. There are also more high-quality options that can be offered to a wider range of patients than we have had in the past.

Second, I think that our profession will continue to further specialize. The ratio of patients to doctors continues to grow and will be an increasing problem as the baby boomers pour in. This is no surprise, and the pandemic just delayed the inevitable. The days of ophthalmologists seeing routine patients are numbered. We will increasingly depend on the optometric community, as well as our growing ancillary staff, to provide routine care while we concentrate our efforts on all things surgical.

Lastly, we will see an explosion of new technology from industry. We have just started to see a slew of new intraocular lenses, and there are many more in the pipeline over the next five years. There are many new drugs on the way across all subspecialties. We will have sales forces ramping up again with the goal of selling full office and surgical suites as well.

Jerry Orloff. CEO of Southern Eye Center (Hattiesburg, Miss.):

  1. Increasing difficulty recruiting experienced ophthalmic technicians
  2. Increasing difficulty recruiting inexperienced people to train as ophthalmic technicians and high skilled office staff who are suitably educated for and motivated to work in an in-office setting
  3. A paradox, whereby highly sophisticated emerging technologies that would greatly enhance diagnostic and treatment capabilities cannot be acquired and implemented due to declining reimbursement pressure
  4. Increasing potential for the implementation of a single payer system
  5. [Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty] as a first-line therapy standard of care due to the costs associated with glaucoma medications

V. Nicholas Batra, MD. Batra Vision Medical Group (San Leandro, Calif.):

  1. Proliferation of premium channel products: presbyopia correcting lenses, dry eye therapies, LASIK and cosmetic eyelid procedures
  2. Consolidation of corporate-owned practices, particularly private equity-backed groups
  3. Decreased payment for professional services and increased payments for facility fees

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