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Public Health Rep. 1995 Mar-Apr;110(2):147-53.

Office visits to ophthalmologists and other physicians for eye care among the U.S. population, 1990.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.


Despite growth in the use of ophthalmologic care in the last decade, little is known about the use of eye care services and patterns of physician contact across population subgroups. As the U.S. population grows older, such information is crucial in planning strategies for treatment and prevention of eye disorders as well as in identifying potential problems in access and use of eye care. Using the 1990 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data, a descriptive statistical analysis was employed to profile the possible variations in eye care-related office visits to ophthalmologists and other physicians across demographic groups. In 1990, a total of 49.3 million visits that were related primarily to an ocular disorder were made to physicians' offices; 43.8 million (89 percent) of these were visits to ophthalmologists and 5.4 million (11 percent) to other physicians. Use of ambulatory eye care varied across demographic subgroups. Those ages 65 or older had a substantially higher rate of eye care related outpatient visits per 1,000 persons per year compared with the rest of the population (743.6 per 1,000 versus 118.5 per 1,000, P < 0.001). Women had a higher rate than men (216.0 per 1,000 versus 177.0 per 1,000, 0.01; P < 0.05). Blacks had a substantially lower rate than whites (143.2 per 1,000 versus 194.6 per 1,000, 0.001; P < 0.01). Those who visited ophthalmologists' offices also differed from those who visited other physicians' offices in terms of their age, sex, race, health insurance status, and disease characteristics. It is important to devote increased attention to the prevention of vision loss among the population groups that have a higher risk of developing eye diseases and that also may have underused or have less access to care. Results from this analysis, in combination with data on the prevalence of ocular disorders for different population groups, provide useful information to identify these high-risk groups.

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