Patient starts by AAO members increased by 4% per member in 2010 over 2008, according to the latest AAO Member & Patient Census Study. Conducted every 2 years, the study tracks trends in patient starts, staffing concerns, and referral patterns.

While patient starts increased from 228 per member to 237 last year, these figures remain below the peak of 2004 when members reported an average of 262 new patient starts. The survey also found that new patient exams were down slightly from 375 to 359 per member. New case presentations fell from 232 to 226.

Total patients in active treatment increased from 502 to 506 per member, a 0.8% uptick.

The number of active, participating AAO members continues to grow steadily, from 9,045 in 2004 to 9,456 in 2008 and 9,660 last year. The total number of patients in treatment by members grew by 2.5% in 2010 to 4,888,000.

Of the total number of patients treated, about 3,440,000 were children ages 8 to 17, representing about 8.2% of US children in that age group. The study estimates that as the population grows, assuming AAO members continue to treat 8.2% of US children, each member will gain on average 44 more patients in 2015 as compared to 2010.

Adult patients, meanwhile, increased 2.5% to a total of 1,075,000.

AAO members participating in the survey also reported seeing patients an average of 30 hours a week in 2010, up 1 hour a week from 2008, while doctors devoted 45 hours a week to the practice, down an hour from the previous survey. Members saw an average of 50 patients a day, up from 48 in 2008. The average length of treatment was 22 months.

In 2010, the average AAO member employed 7 full-time and 3 part-time staff members. The number of members in multiple-doctor practices declined from 28% to 24%, down significantly from 31% in 2006.

In terms of practice promotion, 47% of members reported using Facebook to promote their practices and 35% said they spent more than $10,000 a year to promote their practices.