Focus on Hispanics

December 15, 2007

Dr. Rojas opened Rojas Eye Care in his new hometown of Allentown, PA. He quickly discovered major cultural differences between his former patient base, which was 95% Caucasian, and his new patient base, which is 80% Hispanic. In his Spanish-speaking patient population, Dr. Rojas found undiagnosed systemic medical issues impacting eye health, a lack of education on preventive measures, and patients who were chronically late or just skipped appointments.

Key Points

Julio Rojas, MD, FACS, sold a successful ophthalmology practice in Hazleton, PA, to retire and move a little south.

In his Spanish-speaking patient population, Dr. Rojas found undiagnosed systemic medical issues impacting eye health, a lack of education on preventive measures, and patients who were chronically late or just skipped appointments.

Fastest-growing demographic

The optical industry is taking notice. From bilingual Web sites and office staffs to Spanish-language brochures, the industry is making its move to attract, educate, and cash in on this growing consumer population.

According to U.S. Census projections, Hispanic purchasing power reached $768 billion in 2005 and is projected to reach more than $1 trillion by 2010. A paper sponsored by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, Athens, reported that the nation's Hispanic buying power will grow at a compound annual rate of 8.2% between 1990 and 2009. That compares to a 4.9% of growth for non-Hispanics during the same time period.

Cultural awareness

Southern California, Dr. Feinfield said, is a melting pot of different ethnic groups that is home to 140 different languages and dialects. He built his practice around catering to ethnic and cultural differences, including hiring bilingual staff.

He also understands how cultural differences can impact care. Hispanic patients, for example, tend to bring extended family with them to appointments, and the Spanish-speaking community tends to work in a cash economy.