Eye to the Future: Predicting 2017's Ophthalmology Compensation Trends

John Watson

December 23, 2016

In This Article

Seeking Next-Generation Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmology may share systemic flaws, such as gender-based pay disparities and bureaucratic frustrations, with nearly every other specialty, but it can also take pride in having unique satisfactions that set it apart.

For Dr Rapuano, there is perhaps no advantage as distinct as the field's ability to impart tangible and dramatic benefit to patients.

"In much of ophthalmology, there is a demonstrable effect on people's sight and on their lives. If you take a cataract out of somebody who has poor vision, within days or weeks, they look back and say, 'Oh my God, my life is better.' With corneal transplants, we take people who can hardly see and get them down close to 20/20 within weeks of surgery. It's something special. That's what makes ophthalmology a great specialty to me."

Ophthalmology also benefits from its commitment to technology-based advances, which routinely upend concepts of what is clinically possible.

For Dr Rapuano, the recent US Food and Drug Administration approval of corneal collagen crosslinking provides a good example of a new technology (though one available in Europe for some time) that can potentially save young patients from having to undergo corneal transplantation.

Dr Patel cited the example of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents, which have gone from promising to standard of care in macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy in short order, as a prominent example of how quickly the field can change.

"The patient satisfaction, in doing something that even 10 years ago you couldn't have done, is really the satisfying thing about being an ophthalmologist these days," she said.

Farther down the road is the promise of even greater breakthroughs in the form of miniature ocular implants—be they microchip, telescopic, or drug-eluting—that may revolutionize care by restoring sight or just sparing patients from a battery of injections and drops.

Perhaps most enticing for young ophthalmologists is the fact that the increasing ranks of older adults requiring treatment is a trend very much still in the making. Peak impact for is not expected for another 10-15 years, when a majority of baby boomers reach their early 70s.[1]

With an unmet demand, an abundance of potential patients, and the relatively rare opportunity to offer them dramatically tangible benefits thanks to ongoing technological breakthroughs, it would seem that ophthalmology is well positioned for the coming years. The question now is whether a young generation of doctors will seize on the opportunity, and by doing so, begin to unburden their time-strapped, paperwork-suffering colleagues.

Survey Methodology and Demographics

Between November 17, 2015, and February 9, 2016, Medscape gathered compensation data from around 19,200 physicians across 26 different specialties. Approximately 2% of respondents were ophthalmologists. Their responses were captured through a third-party online survey collection site. In some categories, percentages do not add up to 100% because of rounding.

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