[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 1982

Future Requirements for and Supply of Ophthalmologists: What Do the Forecasts Show?

Author Affiliations
From the Veterans Administration Medical Center (Dr Trobe); and the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine (Dr Trobe), and the Health Systems Research Division (Dr Kilpatrick), University of Florida, Gainesville.
Arch Ophthalmol. 1982;100(1):61-66. doi:10.1001/archopht.1982.01030030063002

• Forecasts of the requirements for and supply of ophthalmologists in 1990 have produced conflicting results because of varying assumptions about the future utilization of eye care services, incidence and prevalence of ophthalmic disease, physician productivity, and availability of residency training positions. A typical "utilization-based" model, founded on present consumer behavior, predicts a substantial 1990 surplus of ophthalmologists at current rates of residency training. Two "need-based" models, founded on ideal rather than actual use, reach different conclusions because of varying use of a fragile data base and the need to rely heavily on the subjective judgment of experts with regard to norms of care. The 1980 Graduate Medical Educational National Advisory Committee forecasted a surplus, while the 1978 American Academy of Ophthalmology predicted a deficit. Utilization-based models may slightly underestimate future ophthalmologist requirements. However, analysis of the factors that will influence future use suggests that need-based models are likely to overestimate the requirements. It is risky to accept the need-based model projections because of the high costs of a surplus, which include not only the expenses of training unneeded ophthalmologists but also the costs of their decreased exposure to disease and of declining physician morale, acumen, and thresholds for surgical procedures. Because free market mechanisms are ineffective in governing the supply of health providers, it will be necessary for the profession itself to review the current and projected supply and to set limits on the number of persons in training.