Young adults, in particular, are more likely to seek out and place high value on telemedicine for eye care
Baltimore, Maryland, February 11, 2021 – Today, Versant Health, released the results of the 2nd annual Vision Wellness Study, which found Americans, in particular young adults under 40, are showing a new interest in the use of virtual technology and telemedicine for eye care.
The Vision Wellness Study surveyed consumers and health plan executives on their perceptions of eye care in a pandemic environment, including the value they place on eye care services and their beliefs about the impact of eye care on overall health.
Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents under 40 say having access to technology and tools for virtual visits would make them more likely to schedule a routine eye exam, compared to 67% of all respondents. More than one third (38%) of people under 40 say that being able to communicate remotely with eye doctors would have a high impact on seeing an eye doctor more often, compared to 34% of people ages 40-59 and just 15% of people ages 60 and over. Health plan executives also see the value of telemedicine—76% of those surveyed believe members’ use of alternatives to face-to-face contact with eye doctors will increase substantially or somewhat as a result of the pandemic.
“With COVID-19 as the backdrop, patients are showing an increased desire for convenient and easily-accessible eye care using remote technology,” said Dr. Mark Ruchman, Chief Medical Officer at Versant Health. “As we look to the future of eye care, ocular telemedicine will play an important role in improving access to care, as patients are provided more ways to address their eye health on their own terms.”
Perceptions of Eye Care Value vs. Costs
Overall, Americans are increasingly recognizing the importance of eye care, with 81% of respondents receiving an eye exam in the past two years, compared to 77% who said the same in the inaugural study. For all respondents, including those who have not seen an eye doctor in the past two years, the ability to identify eye diseases and the ability to identify other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, ranked as the top two services that would make them more likely to schedule an eye doctor appointment, supporting the role of eye health as a window into overall health.
Of people who have not received an eye exam in the past two years, 37% say it’s due to cost and affordability, pointing to a need to dispel misconceptions about the costs of eye care.
“Members are realizing that comprehensive eye exams can provide a clearer picture of their overall health,” said Elizabeth Klunk, RN, BSN, CCM-R, Senior Vice President of Medical Management at Versant Health. “In fact, eye exams are one of the lowest cost and least invasive methods at looking at whole body health for early disease detection.”
The Social Determinants of Eye Health
Despite the low cost of eye care, barriers to access persist, particularly for people in lower income households—81% of all respondents say they have received an eye exam in the past two years, but only 68% of people in households with incomes under $35,000 say the same. When it comes to insurance, 69% of respondents say someone in their household has vision insurance, and that drops to 61% for people with incomes under $35,000.
While 43% of people with incomes under $35,000 say affordability is the reason why they don’t go to the eye doctor as often as they’d like, health plan executives say transportation is the key obstacle for members’ access to eye care services (88%), highlighting a disconnect. Where health plan executives are concerned about physically getting members to eye doctors’ offices, members are more concerned with the costs of care.
“The future of eye care requires us to implement tools that can increase access to care for all patient populations, especially those who are more likely to face systemic barriers. During this pandemic, the rapid advancement of technology has helped us to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations, and we are committed to continuing to explore how it makes healthy sight more accessible,” said Klunk.
Versant Health’s 2nd annual Vision Wellness Study, conducted between October 30 and November 17, 2020, included two distinct surveys fielded by Market Measurement, a custom market research firm. The consumer survey comprises 525 responses from consumers 18 and older. The healthcare plan executive survey comprised 17 responses from health plan executives across the U.S. The survey covered their opinions on routine eye care, access to eye exams, preventative health measures, care costs and other topics related to managed vision care.