More than half, 52 percent, of respondents to the 19th wave of the Jobson Optical Research survey on COVID-19 said that someone in their practice location has gotten the virus. That’s the highest percentage of positive responses yet; it’s a 10 percentage point increase since the 18th wave of the survey taken in December 2020 and nearly a 20 percentage point increase since the November 2020 survey. Wave 19 survey responses were accepted from Jan. 27-29, 2021.
In signs that the recovery may be underway or that eye care professionals have made efficiency adjustments, more respondents said that their profitability is as good (40 percent) or better (22 percent) in January 2021 compared to January 2020. For 38 percent of the respondents, profitability in January 2021 was lower than the previous year. Similarly, a majority of respondents said their optical sales were higher (26 percent) or about the same (30 percent) in January 2021.
The increased sanitization measures between patients is one factor that may be keeping locations from ramping up their patient volume. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said their patient volume was lower in January 2021 compared to the year before. The process of cleaning the office or exam rooms for each patient ranges from one-to-two minutes to a small percentage who said that it takes 15 minutes or more in between patients to prepare the room.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said that they felt their practice has the capacity to increase its patient volume, an average of 32 percent more patients than they’re currently seeing. The one-third of the respondents who said that they do not have the bandwidth to take on more patients now cited government restrictions and lack of staff as the primary blocks.
Most practitioners, however, are not responding that telemedicine is a way to increase patient volume. Just fewer than half of the respondents said that they are already offering telemedicine services or plan to add them. Fifty-one percent said they were not planning on offering telemedicine, the highest percentage to say so since March 2020. Only 27 percent of respondents said that they plan to incorporate telemedicine into the practice on a regular basis; that is the lowest percentage to respond this way since the survey began asking that question in May 2020.
A slight majority of respondents, 54 percent, reported that they had already received one or both doses of their vaccine. Another 20 percent said they expected “absolutely” to get it and another 9 percent thought that they would. Eight percent said they were unsure, and 10 percent said probably or definitely not.
However, 88 percent of the respondents said that the availability of the vaccine is very important (69 percent) or somewhat important (19 percent) to full business recovery.
The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines does not seem to have changed attitudes about travel plans. The responses to that question have not shifted much since before the vaccines began to be distributed.
In terms of industry events scheduled for the first half of 2021, majorities are saying they are unlikely to or definitely not going to attend. It’s key to note, however, than 60 percent of the respondents said that they do not typically attend any of the these three major events in the first half of the year: SECO, Vision Expo East or Optometry’s Meeting.
Read the full Wave 19 of the Coronavirus ECP Study here.