Improving Access to Eye Care: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Elsevier, Ophthalmology, Volume 129, October 2022
Solomon S.D., Shoge R.Y., Ervin A.M., Contreras M., Harewood J., Aguwa U.T. et al.

Purpose: The goals were to develop a working and inclusive definition of access to eye care, identify gaps in the current system that preclude access, and highlight recommendations that have been identified in prior studies. This manuscript serves as a narrative summary of the literature. Clinical Relevance: Health care disparities continue to plague the nation's well-being, and eye care is no exception. Inequities in eye care negatively affect disease processes (i.e., glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy), interventions (surgical treatment, prescription of glasses, referrals), and populations (gender, race and ethnicity, geography, age). Methods: A systematic review of the existing literature included all study designs, editorials, and opinion pieces and initially yielded nearly 2500 reports. To be included in full-text review, an article had to be US-based, be written in English, and address 1 or more of the key terms “barriers and facilitators to health care,” “access,” and “disparities in general and sub-specialty eye care.” Both patient and health care professional perspectives were included. One hundred ninety-six reports met the inclusion criteria. Results: Four key themes regarding access to eye care from both patient and eye care professional perspectives emerged in the literature: (1) barriers and facilitators to access, (2) utilization, (3) compliance and adherence, and (4) recommendations to improve access. Common barriers and facilitators included many factors identified as social determinants of health (i.e., transportation, insurance, language, education). Utilization of eye care was largely attributable to having coverage for eye care, recommendations from primary care professionals, and improved health status. Geographic proximity, age, and lack of transportation surfaced as factors for compliance and adherence. There were a variety of recommendations to improve access to eye care, including improving presence in community health clinics, reimbursement for physicians, and funding of community-based programs such as DRIVE and REACH. Conclusions: The eye care profession has abundant evidence of the disparities that continue to affect marginalized communities. Improving community-based programs and clinics, addressing social determinants of health, and acknowledging the effects of discrimination and bias on eye care serve as ways to improve equity in this field.