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NEW YORK—Even with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to move across the U.S. in a hopscotch-like path, ECPs and eyecare practice managers seem to be exhibiting a more optimistic outlook on circumstances and taking steps to get back to more of a “normal” approach to business, according to the 15th Wave of Jobson's ECP Coronavirus Survey. Jobson Research conducted the survey during the Sept. 18-22 period. For example, asked about the operating hours of their practice, 72 percent of respondents said they have returned to “normal” hours of operation, which marks a high for this response dating to May when only 47 percent of respondents said they were operating with “normal” hours.

The survey was completed by 638 eyecare professionals, 87 percent of whom identified as an optometrist or optician. And 61 percent said they are female.

Asked about closing their practice in the event of an uptick in coronavirus cases, 87 percent of respondents said they “agreed” with the statement that they would only close again if mandated by the government. This compares with 81 percent of respondents who agreed with this statement in the July survey.

In addition, the number of respondents who said they had billed for telehealth services in the past two weeks dropped to 35 percent. This compares with a percentage range of 65 percent to 70 percent billing for telehealth services in April and May during the height of the pandemic in many major metro areas.

However, a majority of respondents (51 percent) said they saw fewer patients in the Sept. 18-22 period than in the same period of 2019. Twenty percent of respondents said they saw more patients this year than in this September period of 2019, and 28 percent of respondents said the patient count was “about the same.”

In wave 15 of the survey, practice revenue was reported to be 74 percent of the level it was in the same period of 2019. 
The survey found a continuing decline in the number of respondents who said they are “very concerned” or even “somewhat concerned” about the prospect of having to close down their practice again due to COVID-19. In the latest survey, only 20 percent of respondents described themselves as “very concerned” about this possibility. The percentage of “very concerned” has dropped to 35 percent, 30 percent and 21 percent, respectively, in waves 12, 13, and 14 of the Jobson survey.

Similarly, the percentage of somewhat concerned respondents has followed the same trend, declining from 48 percent to 44 percent (twice) and 41 percent in the latest four surveys.

The survey also addressed the industry’s move to virtual events as a replacement for the many live events that take place in the latter part of the year. Virtual events that respondents said they are most interested in are those that offer accredited CE courses, with 87 percent interested in this option.

The opportunity to learn about new products and services was a top interest of 48 percent of respondents in wave 15 (compared with 49 percent in the previous survey).

Roughly one in four respondents (24 percent) noted that some of the practice’s staff had either been let go or laid off because of the pandemic, and almost one of five respondents (18 percent) acknowledged that someone working at their practice location had been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

With respect to providing telehealth service to patients, the number of respondents who said they are not considering this option was 47 percent. This is an indication that the interest in telehealth services has continued to decline in August and September.

Click to view a PDF of the full survey results.