June 2021
Volume 62, Issue 8
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2021
Estimating Patient Demand for Ophthalmologists in the United States using Google Trends
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Suveera Dang
    The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • Haig Pakhchanian
    The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • Erin Flynn
    The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • Rahul Raiker
    West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia, United States
  • Chloe T.L. Khoo
    The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • David Belyea
    Ophthalmology, George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Suveera Dang, None; Haig Pakhchanian, None; Erin Flynn, None; Rahul Raiker, None; Chloe Khoo, None; David Belyea, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science June 2021, Vol.62, 1724. doi:
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      Suveera Dang, Haig Pakhchanian, Erin Flynn, Rahul Raiker, Chloe T.L. Khoo, David Belyea; Estimating Patient Demand for Ophthalmologists in the United States using Google Trends. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2021;62(8):1724.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : Currently, there are around 18,500 ophthalmologists practicing in the United States. However, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates a shortage of ophthalmology providers in 2025. It is well known that the prevalence of cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy is highest in the elderly. There is expected to be an increase in the percentage of population aged 65 and older from 2017 to 2032. Despite this increase in population and the expected shortage of ophthalmologists, little research has attempted to quantify current demand for ophthalmologists on a regional level. This study sought to estimate demand for ophthalmologists using internet search engine data. Furthermore, it compared the level of demand with the number of ophthalmology providers in that area to address whether there is a shortage.

Methods : Google Trends were analyzed from 2004-2019 to find the average relative search volume (RSV) for the term “Ophthalmologist” of each state to determine patient interest. Furthermore, supply of ophthalmologists was identified by utilizing the Medicare Physician Compare National Database. This is a publicly accessible database that quantifies board-certified ophthalmology providers per state who accept Medicare. For each region, the number of providers was then divided by the 2019 Census Bureau population estimates to find the concentration of specialists per capita values. The RSV values were then divided by the per capita values to estimate the demand index of ophthalmologists for each state.

Results : The relative demand index was highest in South Dakota (100), Michigan (83), Delaware (82), Texas (78), and Arizona (76) (Figure 1). The greatest specialist concentration per 10,000 people was in Montana (1.62), DC (0.85), Hawaii (0.40), and Maryland (0.41) and lowest in Oklahoma (0.19), New Mexico (0.19), Texas (0.19) and Wyoming (0.17). The highest search volumes (RSV) were in Delaware (100), Michigan (100), and South Dakota (93) and the lowest volumes were in Alaska (36), Wyoming (27), and North Dakota (36).

Conclusions : With an aging population and an estimated shortage of ophthalmologists, the findings from this study will better delineate areas with an unmet need for ophthalmologists. This can provide helpful information to ophthalmologists when deciding on job allocation or practice building.

This is a 2021 ARVO Annual Meeting abstract.

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