ALEXANDRIA, VA.—The Vision Council has released the results of the February 2021 Eyecare Provider Insights Survey. The survey, which launched in March 2020, is being conducted on an ongoing basis to track the state of the optical market. "The February results closely follow what we saw in January, with over half of optometry practices and optical retailers reporting reductions in business compared to a typical month,” according to Alysse Henkel, director of Research Data and Analytics. “While low patient volume has continued, the capture rate remains high. Practice owners report that they have sought and received support to supplement their lost business revenue, with 72 percent applying for some sort of assistance,” she said.

“The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a common source of support, with nearly all owners reporting receiving PPP funds after they applied. Overall, government and private assistance programs have provided much-needed funds equal to about 10 percent of practices' typical annual revenue.

“The most promising news in this report is about vaccinations: eyecare providers reported a very high vaccination rate (70 percent). However, most respondents said there was some hesitancy to receive the COVID vaccine among at least a few of their co-workers," Henkel said.

The Vision Council fielded the survey to the organization’s panel of more than 1,700 eyecare providers during the last week of February. The survey asked respondents to provide insight about how business conditions—including number of eye exams and eye exam scheduling and follow-through, capture rate, revenue, and staffing—compare to a typical month, pre-pandemic.

The survey also asked respondents for their insights on their economic outlook for 2021 and included a special section on issues specifically relating to COVID-19, including vaccinations, safety precautions, and business assistance.

Other key takeaways from the report include:

• Eyecare providers are getting vaccinated at a much higher rate than the general public: 70 percent of providers reported being fully or partially vaccinated by the last week of February.

• Patient volume (exam counts) remains below normal: 58 percent of providers report the number of exams as below normal, consistent with the recent trends of the last three months.

• Capture rate continues to be strong: 58 percent of providers report their capture rate is normal or better than a typical February.

• Practice owners have taken advantage of government assistance programs: 96 percent of owners who sought assistance reported applying for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.

• Overall, practices are still suffering the effects of the pandemic: 59 percent of providers report revenue is down compared to a typical January and 23 percent of owners report a reduction in staff from last month. But respondents show signs of hope for the future with 47 percent of owners believe business conditions will get better in 3-6 months.

To download the February 2021 Eyecare Provider Insights Report, visit The Vision Council’s Research Download Center here. For more information on The Vision Council’s research, and for member access to the latest reports, visit The Vision Council’s Research Download Center here.