The role of ophthalmology departments in overcoming health care disparities

Rebecca J. Salowe, Prithvi Sankar, Eydie Miller-Ellis, Maxwell Pistilli, Gui-shuang Ying, Joan M. O’Brien


Ophthalmology departments can play a unique role in providing care for at-risk patients. This study analyzed the age, gender,and socioeconomic measures for 267,286 unique African American patients seen at University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). Patients seen by the Ophthalmology Department (n=33,801) were older and more likely to be from impoverished zipcodes than those seen by other UPHS specialists. These results hint at several inherent advantages of ophthalmology departmentsin recruiting older, disadvantaged patients to their clinics. We found that supplementing this advantage with strong patient relationships, involvement of community leaders, and customized outreach efforts was key to overcoming access-to-care issues and to reaching these patients. This provides ophthalmologists with a unique opportunity to capture and refer systemic conditions with ocular manifestations and to possibly reduce disparities such as post-hospitalization readmission and mortality observed disproportionately in impoverished populations.

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Journal of Epidemiological Research

ISSN 2377-9306(Print)  ISSN 2377-9330(Online)

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