Coronavirus BRIEFING

A Majority of ECPs Reduce Office Hours, Expect Lower Revenues as COVID-19 Situation Expands, Jobson Research Survey Finds


NEW YORK—Almost four in five eyecare professionals (primarily independent optometrists and opticians) have taken steps, or are considering, a move to reduce office hours, and about four in 10 are considering temporarily closing their offices in response to the coronavirus outbreak. These are a few of the key findings in a second round of a Jobson Research survey conducted this week. Among the respondents considering a reduction in hours, 43.6 percent said they are considering temporarily closing their offices and 21.2 percent said they are evaluating whether to open fewer days per week.

In this updated Jobson Research survey, which was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, 1,020 of the 1,323 respondents (or 77.1 percent) said they are either reducing office hours or are considering this response. About one-third of the respondents (33.8 percent) said they would close their offices “only if mandated.”

In addition, almost 37 percent of respondents to the second survey said they plan to offer, or have started to offer, telehealth service to their patients as a result of recent events. This compares with 22 percent of respondents taking these steps in the first survey just a few days earlier.

The complete findings of the second Jobson Research Coronavirus ECP Survey are available for download at no charge here

The respondents to the second Jobson survey included 710 optometrists (53.2 percent) and 505 opticians/dispensers (37.8 percent), while 819 of the respondents identified as a “single location” practice and 219 are affiliated with two or three-location practices. Overall, 10.3 percent (137) of the respondents said they are affiliated with a practice of 10 or more locations.

About 60 percent of the respondents were female. About twice as many professionals responded to the second wave of the survey, including about three times as many ODs—710 compared with 226.

The options being considered, or taken, to reduce the office hours of the practice were split about evenly between opening fewer hours per day (45.9 percent) and closing temporarily on a voluntary basis (43.6 percent). About one-third of respondents (342 or 33.8 percent) said they would close their practice “only if mandated.”

As in the first survey (conducted the weekend of March 14-15), the second wave also asked about the expected impact on practice revenues, and the results show a marked shift in expectations among the responding ECPs.

In the second wave, about 87 percent of the respondents indicated that they expect either a “significant” decline or a “decline” in practice revenue as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Of this group, 51.3 percent (or 679 respondents) said they are expecting a “significant” decline in revenue.

By comparison, in the first round of the Jobson Research survey, only 11.7 percent (68 people) said they expected to see a “significant” decline in revenues, and 39.7 percent said they expected a decline. About half of respondents (44.1 percent) to the first survey said they believed it was “too early to tell” the impact of coronavirus on their practice.

Both surveys’ findings indicate that ECPs are taking an aggressive approach to safety and extra precautions in their offices. In survey two, 98.8 percent of respondents indicated that they are taking actions to enhance safety of their patients and/or staff. This included providing hand sanitizer in the office (90.2 percent), requiring a regular schedule for hand-washing (66.9 percent), limiting the number of people allowed in the office at one time (68.8 percent) and providing masks for staff (32.3 percent).

About one-third of the respondents (32.2 percent) to the second survey noted that they are requiring their patients to wash their hands prior to their exam, and 22.1 percent are providing masks to their patients.

In terms of patient response to coronavirus, 84.7 percent of ECP respondents (1,110) said patients are canceling appointments “more than usual,” while 15.3 percent said they have not noticed a “perceivable change” in appointments. Roughly 53 percent of the patients who are canceling their appointments have opted to reschedule, according to the surveys results.

At the staff level, about seven in 10 respondents (73.1 percent) noted that their staff has expressed concerns about coming to work. This compares with 44.2 percent who noted staff concerns in the earlier survey.

Roughly one in two respondents (55.3 percent) said they expect inventory shortages, which compares with 48.5 percent of respondents to the first survey by Jobson Research. The percentage of respondents who expect production delays, however, rose slightly from 51.6 percent to 65.9 percent in the second survey.

Among the other key findings of the survey:

• 63.2 percent of respondents said the coronavirus will not affect their thinking on providing telehealth options to patients. This compares with 78.1 percent in the first round of the survey.

• 21 percent of respondents said they expect increased interest by patients in accessing telehealth options as a result of the coronavirus.

• 75.3 percent of respondents said they are cleaning each frame tried on in the dispensary.