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ODs ‘Still Making Sacrifices’ as COVID-19 Spread Continues

‘Doctors of optometry have continued to provide essential care to patients throughout the pandemic, often at substantial personal sacrifice.’

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Optometrists “are still experiencing the trying effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their practices,” the American Optometric Association reports.

The conclusion comes from a third COVID-19 survey conducted by the AOA Health Policy Institute.

At the peak of pandemic restrictions in April 2020, 92 percent of ODs said they saw fewer than 25 percent of their pre-pandemic patient volume, according to AOA. After restrictions were lifted, only 58 percent of optometrists surveyed in September reported patient volumes had rebounded to more than 75 percent of pre-pandemic patient levels.

“While the nation rightly enjoys the optimism of the first COVID vaccinations this month, we also are grounded by the seemingly relentless path of destruction the pandemic has caused and will continue to cause for some time to come,” said HPI Chair Steven Loomis, OD. “Doctors of optometry have continued to provide essential care to patients throughout the pandemic, often at substantial personal sacrifice.”

Among other findings:

  • 31% of optometry practices were not able to maintain the recommended supply of N95 or KN95 masks.
  • There was a 12% increase in overhead costs since the pandemic began.
  • There was a more than 300% increase in doctors reporting that they or members of their staffs had been diagnosed or tested positive for COVID-19 (over a three-month period from June to September).
  • 69% of patients expressed concerns about coming into the practice for appointments.
  • 66% of doctors continued to be concerned for the safety of their staffs and themselves.
  • 43% of doctors noticed a health decline in their patients with chronic conditions due to the lack of regular care since the pandemic.

“While a significant rebound in patient volume has been experienced since the severe restrictions of April 2020, more than one-third of doctors surveyed in September report patient volumes still lag below 75% of pre-pandemic levels,” Loomis said. “This clearly is a concern for patients who may well not be seeking the care they need. Doctors of optometry continue to be challenged with obtaining adequate personal protective equipment, rising overhead costs, trained staff shortages and even personal exposure to COVID themselves. Yet, they remain faithful to their mission of providing needed care to Americans.”

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For this third release of data, doctors were surveyed between Aug. 24 and Sept. 25.

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