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Women and children feature prominently in record 10 million eye exams

New figures have revealed Australian optometrists performed a record number of Medicare consultations last year, while children’s vision assessments increased at a greater rate than population growth.

Optometry Australia (OA)’s analysis of the Optometric Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) statistics for 2019 has also shown that women remain significantly higher users of optometric services, with females making up 58% of patients accessing optometry services under Medicare.

The figures were revealed following an analysis by OA standards and policy advisor Ms Cassandra Haines. In her most notable finding, she found that 10,125,281 consults were provided overall last year, which represents 39,530 services per 100,000 people.

She said it was the greatest number of total, and per population, services provided under Medicare by optometrists in any calendar year.

Ms Skye Cappuccio, the organisation’s general manager of policy said the figures suggest that increasing numbers of Australians are accessing primary eye and vision care from optometrists.

“This is positive and indicates increased awareness of the role of optometry and the importance of eye and vision care,” she said.

“We have [also] seen increases in both the number of children accessing optometric care and the number of children’s vision assessments being undertaken to support diagnosis and treatment planning for binocular or accommodative dysfunctions in children.

“We don’t know definitively why these increases have occurred, and will continue to monitor changing access for this population group closely.”

While there had been sustained overall growth in number of consults provided by optometrists under Medicare over the past decade, according to Haines, changes in specific item number usage varied.

Her analysis for OA reveals there has been very little change in the total number of item 10918 (subsequent consultation) billed in the last five years, and this is falling as a proportion of total items billed.

Haines noted that billing of the low vision assessment item (10942) and domiciliary visit items (10931-10933) have remained relatively steady in recent years.

There has been a notable recent increase in perimetry items (10940 and 10941), with a nearly 15% increase in 2019 on those provided in 2018.

Cappuccio said these latest statistics are a good indication of the extent of the contribution optometrists in Australia are making to population health and to the health care system.

“This is something the profession should be proud of and congratulated for.”