Creating an efficient way to handle the impending influx of older patients is another objective of the AAO.
As health care continues to experience uncertain times, the American
Academy of Ophthalmology, under its new president, plans to educate and prepare
the ophthalmic community for the challenges ahead.
Health care reform presents uncertainties and challenges to our
profession and our patients. There are tremendous pressures from Medicare and
the government to decrease reimbursements to medicine in general, and Im
sure ophthalmology will experience some of that pressure, Ruth D.
Williams, MD, president of the AAO, said in an interview with Ocular
In the last year, weve experienced a consolidation of large
integrated health care systems all around us. And ophthalmology, for the most
part, exists outside of large integrated health care systems, she said.
Helping in health care
To account for the uncertain and potentially volatile health care
environment, Dr. Williams has promised help from the AAO.
[AAO will give] groups strategic advice about how to organize and
position themselves, about the impacts large [accountable care organizations]
are going to have on individual practices; well help ophthalmologists to
understand the health care environment in a time of accelerated change, give
advice on how they can negotiate, she said.
Dr. Williams expects a supply and demand issue in the ophthalmic field
in the form of a higher patient-to-practitioner ratio.
Since were going to have a lot more seniors, since people
are living longer and since most eye problems are more common as people age,
were expecting the number of patients who need ophthalmic care to really
blossom over the next decade, Dr. Williams said.
And, interestingly, were not making that many
more ophthalmologists, so there are more patients for the same number of
doctors to take care of them. It means were all going to have to work
harder, or at least smarter, she said.
Focuses of the AAO
Dr. Williams, who was installed as president at the AAO meeting in
Orlando, Fla., said that her election was a surprise, but she is confident that
she will help the organization meet the demand for smarter ophthalmic practice.
I really thought that my time with the Academy was coming to a
close, so it caught me by surprise, but its a wonderful surprise.
Its such a privilege to be able to meet and work with ophthalmologists in
the U.S. and around the globe. I look forward to meeting people and getting to
know more of my colleagues, she said.
Dr. Williams is focused on the AAOs long-term strategic
directions, but she also wants to work on facilitating community and
communication among ophthalmologists worldwide.
One role of the Academy is to develop a community where we can
share information and collaborate. We have such a diverse community now. I want
the Academy to reflect that diversity, both in this country and globally,
In a time of chaos, which the health care system is in, it is an
extraordinary opportunity for us to lead as a profession, she said.
Ophthalmologists are smart, innovative people who are willing to change
and want to do things well. Thats why I think ophthalmology is going to
succeed, she said. by Daniel R. Morgan
- Ruth D. Williams, MD, can be reached at Wheaton Eye Clinic, 2015 N.
Main St., Wheaton, IL 60187; 630-668-8250; email:
- Disclosure: No products or companies are mentioned that would require