Community health centers are a vital resource for the safety net population, serving more than 30 million patients1. In order to continue helping as many people as possible, health centers must adapt to the changing needs of those who rely on them. As the population grows older, some services are in higher demand — one of them is eye care.
With six out of 10 health centers listing service expansion as either their first or second priority2, opening an ophthalmology facility is a great way to ensure your health center improves its offering to patients while meeting one of its main priorities.
Are Eye Care Services in Demand?
Those aged 65 and older consume 10 times as much eye care as those aged below 653. Since 2000, the national median age in the U.S. has increased by 3.4 years to 38.84, meaning there are more people above the age of 38.8 than ever before. It stands to reason, then, that the demand for healthcare services such as eye care, which are disproportionately consumed by those aged 65 and older, will grow.
This expectation is backed up by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, which projects the employment of optometrists to grow by 9% from 2020 to 20305.
What You Need to Consider
Making drastic changes to your health center involves a lot of logistical challenges. If you are interested in opening an ophthalmology department, here are some of the things you will have to consider.
Gaining Board Approval
Community health centers are run by a community-based board of directors as well as a series of C-suite executives. Before you take the first steps toward opening an ophthalmology center, you must first secure their approval, so be well prepared to present the benefits of introducing eye care to your health center.
Identifying a Location
An ophthalmology center would require significant space, and it’s important to identify suitable locations within your health center. This may include currently unused exam rooms and spaces that can be repurposed to meet the needs of an eye clinic, which will require a waiting room, pre-testing room, and a testing room at a minimum.
Choosing the Right Equipment
An entirely new list of equipment will have to be added to your inventory in order to open an eye clinic. It’s important to work with specialists to develop this list and identify which items are required at the outset to open the clinic and which can be purchased at a later date once the clinic has been established.
Calculating Financial Viability
First, you will need to contact the individual or team at your health center responsible for insurance credentialing. Although most patients at community health centers are insured through Medicare and Medicaid, others will have private insurance or no coverage at all. At this time, you should analyze the reimbursements available through these various insurance programs to understand how your services will be financially covered.
Using this reimbursement information, you can work with your health center’s finance team to determine how many patients you will be required to see each day for your ophthalmology center to break even.
Finding the Right Staff
Whether you yourself are an eye care specialist or not, you will need to build a staff capable of running the ophthalmology clinic. This may include a receptionist, an assistant to complete pre-testing, an optician, and an ophthalmologist. The time required to hire a capable team should be central to determining the timeline for launching your eye care services.
Advertising Your Ophthalmology Center
The final consideration for launching your ophthalmology clinic is how you attract patients. The answer is advertising. Once your finance team has calculated the patient numbers you require to break even, you’ll have an idea of the scale of advertising campaign you need to embark on. Don’t forget, though, to make your existing patient base aware of your extended services as well as spreading the news outside of your health center.
How CNECT Can Help
CNECT is a group purchasing organization that provides members with access to exclusive discounts on all the products they would need to open an ophthalmology clinic at their health center. Among our portfolio of more than 3,000 contracts, you’ll find reduced pricing on a full range of ophthalmic equipment and supplies, empowering you to launch an eye clinic for less.
If you’re interested in a no-fee membership with CNECT, and access to discounts on 2.7 million products, contact our friendly team today.
2 Dunn, J. (2022, August 29), General Session [Conference Presentation], NACHC 2022 Community Health Institute (CHI) & EXPO, Chicago, IL, United States.