Workforce Study for Labor Projections

Confident in its comprehensive look at optometric labor projections, the AOA stands behind the National Eye Care Workforce Study as an accurate guide to the profession's future. Recently published in June, the study provides a multifactorial look at the eye care workforce for a more detailed projection of the opportunities and challenges ahead for the profession. And, already, the milestone study has proven valuable in refuting outside attempts to forecast future labor prospects.

Challenging Outside Projections

In September, a business research report from the Conference Board—a global business membership and research association—claimed ODs were among "the specialists most at risk of a shortage," between 2012 and 2022. While, weeks later, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) news release incorrectly attributed an accreditation agency to the AOA and quoted labor statistics that painted a misconstrued picture of optometry's future workforce. The AOA disputed both labor claims, and in the case of the USDA, issued a statement for retraction and update of the news release. Although there is consensus among the reports that an aging population will lead to increased demand, the total workforce projections cited by each were at odds, including data used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Setting the Record Straight

This increased demand in necessary eye care services—as projected by the National Eye Care Workforce Study—led the joint AOA-Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry workforce study team to conclude there was an adequate supply of eye doctors—both optometrists and ophthalmologists—inclusive of projections of new doctors, to meet demand through 2025. The group asserts confidence in this assessment based on a comprehensive approach that also factored increases in patients over the next decade resulting from:

  • An aging American population
  • Expansions in health insurance coverage
  • The projected prevalence of Type 2 diabetes
  • Designation in federal law that coverage for eye care is essential for children

Randolph Brooks, O.D., AOA past president and AOA-ASCO Workforce Study Project Team chair, stated in the September issue of AOA Focus that a substantial portion of increased demand will come from optometry's delivery of full-scope medical care. Brooks claims, "The ability of optometrists to be successful in the future is heavily dependent on the ability to meet the eye health needs that are growing, and expected to grow more."