Evaluating Access to Laser Eye Surgery by Driving Times Using Medicare Data and Geographical Mapping

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In this innovative study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, Shaffer et al. used various data sources to investigate patients' access to laser eye surgery providers in several states which recently expanded laser surgery privileges to optometrists. Laser eye surgery has been traditionally limited to ophthalmologists, but optometrists have been advocating to perform these procedures, making the argument that patients in rural areas may have limited access to eye care.

To investigate whether access to care had improved in states that have already expanded laser surgery privileges to optometrists, the authors looked at Medicare part B claims data as well census, geographic and traffic data to determine percentages of the Medicare patients who live within 30 minutes driving time from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, and to estimate travel times for patients to their closest care provider.