Eye through a magnifying glass (Image: Shutterstock)

During my nearly two decades in vision care, I have seen the industry evolve with technological advances and in the quality and breadth of care it delivers.

Vision care is increasingly viewed as critical to maintaining a person’s overall health, and there are a few trends I foresee supporting this shift that will continue to influence vision benefits, like those offered through Anthem’s affiliated plans, to meet consumer needs.

1. Practice-level emphasis on eye health

In eye care practices around the country, there is an increasing emphasis on medical monitoring of eye health in addition to vision correction.

(Related: 3 Thoughts From Anthem’s Disability Boss)

Many diseases impact vision, and the implementation of annual, thorough eye examinations and treatments can lead to early detection of conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and skin cancer. While in many cases vision correction is also needed, understanding the underlying cause of the vision change can allow potentially bigger health issues to be addressed holistically.

Based on Anthem claims data for 2017, more than 29,000 people with diabetes were identified through their regular vision exams.

2. Continued popularity of clinically integrated medical and vision

Integrated health care has grown in popularity among employees in recent years and has been shown to improve health care outcomes. This type of benefits plan connects a person’s ancillary employee benefits, like vision insurance, to his or her medical benefits through his or her health plan. Integrated vision and medical plans can help identify and better manage long-term healthcare issues that can often be detected through eye exams.

For example, with an integrated health plan an exam claim noting visual indicators associated with diabetes would trigger an alert to the nurse care management team and the patient’s medical doctor. The doctor can then evaluate that patient for diabetes and implement a treatment plan to better manage his or her condition.

In addition to whole health benefits for consumers, integrated health plans can also help consumers save money. Data from our Anthem-affiliated health plans show that offering a vision plan results in savings for consumers of up to 60% versus buying services without insurance.

3. Eyewear that protects from blue light and digital eye strain

One of the most significant trends in eye care is closely tied to our increased use of technology: digital eye strain. Recent studies by the Vision Council show that Americans are more than ever subjecting their eyes to screens, and most consumers are impacted by this issue. Nearly 90% said they spend two or more hours on a digital device each day. This prolonged engagement with screens can cause blue light overexposure, which can lead to other health issues like chronic headaches and disruption of normal sleeping patterns.

As screen time continues to rise, consumers will increasingly need eyewear that protects from blue light and the inevitable fatigue that accompanies it. In response, providers should also undertake efforts to educate their patients about the harmful effects of blue light and the tools available – like Transitions® lenses or blue light reflective glasses – to circumvent it and promote overall health. Health plans are also updating their coverage to include these products and services.

Together, these trends demonstrate a growing appreciation for the connection between eye health and overall health. Through integrated health care plans – like those offered byAnthem’s affiliate health plans – and treatment approaches that consider how eye health impacts the whole body, health care providers, employers, and insurers can work together to promote better outcomes for patients and cost savings for all.

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John Thorp (Photo: Anthem)

 

John Thorp is the staff vice president of Anthem Inc. Vision Services.