Optometrists have made double digit increases in the number of drug prescriptions they’ve written in the past few years.

Specifically, O.D.s increased their total number of Rxs nearly 13% in just one year, from 2008 to 2009. (O.D.s wrote a total of 7,624,361 drug Rxs in 2009, compared to 6,748,670 in 2008.) These numbers reflect a continuing trend—from 2007 to 2008, O.D.s bumped up their prescription numbers by 10.7%.

Optometrists prescribing habits have had double digit increases in at least the past two years.
“We’ve always talked a lot about delivering quality care, but now the proof is in the number of prescriptions written. We’re seeing a trend of double digit increases in medications prescribed by optometrists,” says Agustin Gonzalez, O.D., of Dallas, who is presenting a poster on this data at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in San Francisco this month.

From 2008 to 2009, optometrists increased their drug Rxs by:
• 14.7% for glaucoma and miotic drugs.
• 14% for steroids and other anti-inflammatories.
• 13.6% for antibiotics and other anti-infectives.

For his poster (“Quantitative Analysis of Ophthalmic Drug Prescription Writing in Optometry”), Dr. Gonzalez suggests that the numbers not be considered to be absolute because there are multiple factors that affect the tracking of prescriptions.

“We are now looking in the mirror as a profession and realizing that we’re a growing force in healthcare, and we’re growing at a double-digit increase,” Dr. Gonzalez says. “You don’t see that in other disciplines anywhere.”

This growth is likely due in part to optometrists’ increasing comfort with prescribing medications, Dr. Gonzalez says. Also, “I think there has been an increased knowledge on the part of health plans that, as a profession, we actually do deliver medical quality care. I believe that there are many drivers for these changes. The trend that we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a growing recognition of the profession of optometry being more mainstream in health care.”