Purpose — To evaluate evolution in the distribution of new glaucoma patients between ophthalmologists and optometrists, and to examine factors predicting provider type, in the context of expansion in the scope of optometry practice.
Patients and Methods — A population-based study was undertaken using validated datasets in Ontario, Canada from 2007 to 2018, encompassing time before and after optometry practice scope expansion in 2011. All patients aged 66 and older receiving a glaucoma suspect diagnosis or first-line therapy for glaucoma from ophthalmologists or optometrists were enrolled. Predictors of provider type were evaluated using logistic regression.
Results — From 2007 to 2018, 401,560 patients received initial glaucoma care, including 303,440 by ophthalmologists and 98,120 by optometrists. Population rates of glaucoma suspect diagnosis increased for both providers over the study period. The rate of therapy initiation increased annually among optometrists after 2011, while the rate remained stable over that period among ophthalmologists. By 2018, 88% of patients initiating therapy and 59% of patients first diagnosed as a glaucoma suspect received that care from ophthalmologists. In the final study year, therapy initiations per provider were lower among optometrists (median: 2/provider; interquartile range [IQR]: 1-3) than among ophthalmologists (median: 26.5/provider, IQR: 10-53). Patients were more likely to receive care from an ophthalmologist than an optometrist if they were older, had higher ocular or systemic comorbidity, or lived in urban settings.
Conclusions — Optometrists have a large and growing role in diagnosing glaucoma suspects; however, despite scope expansion, optometrists play a much smaller role in initiating glaucoma therapy.