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Cover Focus | Nov/Dec '21

Expanding Your Practice With Optometry

A successful MD-OD business model may be vital in the future.

One of the most pressing issues for the future of eye care is the impending shortage of ophthalmologists. The estimated number of US residents aged 65 years and older continues to grow, with a projected increase of 105.2% from 2015 to 2060.1 With this increase in the aging population comes an increase in eye disease. To keep up with the growing demand, a successful MD-OD business model may become vital for the ophthalmic practice.


When adding a team member to your practice staff, the following chart may be useful in determining whether to hire an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

If the answers to the questions in the left-hand column are yes, then your practice would likely benefit from hiring an optometrist. If the answers to the questions in the right-hand column are yes, then your practice would likely benefit from hiring an ophthalmologist. However, if the answer to any of the questions in the right-hand column is no, then your practice may benefit most from adding an optometrist to your staff.


Adding an optometrist to your staff may help to address several challenges, as outlined below.

Optometrists make valuable team members. They are licensed doctors, they can prescribe topical medications, and in most states they can prescribe systemic medications. Optometrists require less staffing than ophthalmologists, they can help increase optical and contact lens revenue, they can share call, and they can diagnose and treat eye diseases. Although they cannot perform surgery, optometrists can perform a wide range of procedures. Depending on the needs of your practice, adding an optometrist colleague could be a valuable move for your current and future success.

1. 2014 National Population Projections. United States Census Bureau. Accessed December 1, 2021.https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2014/demo/popproj/2014-summary-tables.html

Jill B. Maher, MA, COE