The potential role of ophthalmology as an entry point to the healthcare system.
PURPOSE: To evaluate whether patients who receive ophthalmic care have other physicians and whether ophthalmologists can serve as a significant entry point to the healthcare system. METHODS: Two hundred fourteen patients at a tertiary care eye institute were surveyed regarding their non-ophthalmologist physicians. Demographic, medical, and other data also were collected through the survey. RESULTS: Twenty-eight percent of patients did not have a physician healthcare provider other than their ophthalmologist at their initial visit. Fifteen percent had no other physician, whereas 13% had one as a consequence of subsequent referral by the ophthalmologist. Even among those patients who were 40 years of age and older, 31% initially only had an ophthalmologist as their sole physician provider. Being older, female, and having Medicare, a Health Maintenance Organization membership, or private indemnity insurance were associated with a higher likelihood of having non-ophthalmologist physicians. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that a significant number of patients seeking eye care from an ophthalmologist have no other physician. These findings stress the need for eye care providers to have thorough medical education and clinical training. In addition, eye care may serve as a useful entry point into the healthcare system for a significant number of patients in the United States.
Lee, PP; Fellenbaum, PS; Albrecht, KG; Linton, KL
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