Ophthalmologists slightly better off than primary care colleagues

May 1, 2012
Beth Thomas Hertz

Ophthalmologists expressed a little more optimism than primary-care physicians, when asked to evaluate the financial state of their practices in a national survey conducted in 2011.

Ophthalmologists expressed a little more optimism than primary-care physicians, when asked to evaluate the financial state of their practices in a national survey conducted in 2011.

Nearly half (47%) of the ophthalmologists said their practice finances were about the same as the past year. About 18% said they were better and 33% said they were worse.

Among primary-care physicians, about 43% said things were about the same, 39% said they were worse, and only 14% said they were better.

The survey asked about a wide range of practice issues, including earnings, productivity, and malpractice insurance premiums. A look at the overall findings follows.

Demographics

Of the 248 participating ophthalmologists, 226 described themselves as actively practicing and 22 as semi-retired. All described their practice as at least partly surgical in nature.

The largest number (31%) have been practicing 21 to 30 years. Twenty-seven percent have been practicing more than 30 years, and 20% for 11 to 20 years. The remaining 22% have been practicing 10 or fewer years.

The largest group was 60 to 64 years of age (19%), followed by 65 and older (17%) and 55 to 59 (15%).

The group was predominantly male (83%).

When asked what type of community in which their primary office is located, 38% said suburban, 38% said urban, 11% said rural, and 11% said inner city. Geographically, 30% are located in the South, 27% in the Northeast, 23% in the West, and 17% in the Midwest.

Earnings

The median annual income reported by all responding ophthalmologists (ones with ownership and those without ownership in the practice) was $238,000. The mean was $276,000.

Productivity

The survey found that physicians worked a median of 51 hours in their last full workweek. Ophthalmologists reported working a median of 46 hours (mean, 47.3).

Ophthalmologists' hours translated into a mean of 112 patient visits per week. Of these visits, 102 occurred in the office, seven in a hospital, and three at another location, such as a senior residential facility.

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