While no one has the complete answer, ophthalmologists should look hard at what work they do themselves and what can be handled by other professionals.
“We need to revamp our practice teams–using technicians, physician assistants, optometrists, ophthalmologists, surgeons,” Dr. Mattox said. “How are we going to utilize our practice workflow, testing centers, reading centers, communication with patients?”
Researchers are beginning to produce helpful data in these areas. Dr. Mattox credited Joshua Stein, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with important work on “predictive algorithms to figure out who is getting worse without even having to see the patient."
She anticipates advances in home monitoring, telemedicine, and programs that educate patients on how to take care of themselves.
But ophthalmologists will have to think carefully about the cost effectiveness of diagnostics, medications, surgery, and other procedures, she added. They have to pay attention to how patients are affected by their copayments and out-of-pocket expenses, and when the ophthalmologists’ practices have to absorb the costs of supplies, drugs, lasers, and diagnostic technology.
“Really parse that out to make sure that we are providing the best possible care that we can to the people who really need it,” she advised