Purpose: We describe the results of a practice transformation project conducted within a national cohort of optometry practices participating in the Southern New England Practice Transformation Network.
Methods: Participants were 2,997 optometrists in 1,706 practices in 50 states. The multicomponent intervention entailed curriculum dissemination through a preexisting network of optometrists supported by specialized staff and resources, and data collection through a web portal providing real-time feedback. Outcomes included practices reporting data, urgent optometry visits for target conditions, and projected cost savings achieved by reducing emergency department (ED) use through increased provision of urgent care for conditions amenable to management in optometry practices.
Results: Over 13 months, 69.9% of practices reported data for a mean of 6.7 months. Beginning with the fourth month, the number of urgent optometry visits increased steadily. Among reporting practices, the total cost savings were estimated at $152 million (176,703 ED visits avoided at an average cost differential of $860 per visit). Monthly projected cost savings per optometrist were substantially greater in rural vs urban practices ($10,800 vs $7,870; P <.001).
Conclusions: Technical assistance to promote practice transformation can be provided remotely and at scale at low per-practice cost. Through the provision of timely, easily accessed ambulatory care, optometrists can improve the patient experience and reduce ED use, thereby reducing costs. The cost savings opportunities are immense because of the large volume and high expense of ED visits for ocular conditions that might otherwise be managed in ambulatory optometry practices.
Keywords: cost savings; health care utilization; health information technology; optometry; practice transformation; practice-based research; quality improvement; urgent care.
© 2019 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.