By Hannah Nelson
February 16, 2021 – Young adults are showing renewed interest in access to telemedical eye care, according to a survey conducted by Versant Health that suggests virtual care could increase patient engagement.
The second year Vision Wellness survey gathered responses from 525 consumers about their perceptions of eye care, including the value they place on these services and their beliefs about the impact eye care has on overall health.
Almost three in four respondents (74 percent) under 40 said that having access to telemedicine would make them more likely to plan a routine eye exam, compared with 67 percent of all respondents.
“With COVID-19 as a 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.
“Looking to the future of eye care, ophthalmic telemedicine will play an important role in improving access to care as it gives patients more options to manage their eye health on their own terms,” said Ruchman.
Over a third (38 percent) of respondents under 40 said that access to distance communication with ophthalmologists would have a strong impact on seeing an ophthalmologist more frequently, highlighting a link between virtual care and patient involvement.
34 percent of 40 to 59 year olds agreed, while only 15 percent of 60 year olds and older said that distance communication would increase their commitment to eye care.
Respondents of all ages rated the ability to identify eye diseases and other serious health conditions as the service that would affect them the most to schedule an ophthalmologist appointment and support eye health as a window into general health and wellbeing.
81 percent of those surveyed have had an eye exam in the past two years, compared to 77 percent of those in the opening study. Of people who haven’t had an eye exam in the past two years, 37 percent said that cost is a barrier to access to care.
However, Elizabeth Klunk, RN, BSN, CCM-R, senior vice president of medical management at Versant Health, noted that eye exams are one of the most cost-effective methods of screening.
“Members are realizing that comprehensive eye exams can provide a clearer picture of their overall health,” said Klunk. “In fact, eye exams are one of the most cost-effective and least invasive ways of examining whole-body health for the early detection of disease.”
Although eye care is one of the most affordable types of specialist care, additional social determinants of health affect access to care, such as: B. Annual household income and insurance.
For example, 68 percent of people in households with incomes less than $ 35,000 had an eye exam in the past two years, compared with 81 percent of all respondents. In addition, 61 percent of respondents below $ 35,000 said someone in their household had vision insurance, compared with 69 percent of all respondents.
“The future of eye care requires the implementation of tools that can improve access to care for all patient populations, especially those who are more likely to encounter systemic barriers. During this pandemic, rapid advances in technology have helped us better meet the needs of vulnerable populations, and we are committed to continuing to investigate how this can make healthy vision more accessible, ”said Klunk.
The survey also gathered responses from a group of 17 health plan executives. When asked about their predictions for virtual care, 76 percent said that the use of remote care by ophthalmologists among patients will increase significantly or slightly.
While 43 percent of people on incomes below $ 35,000 said affordability is the reason they don’t see the ophthalmologist as often as they’d like, nearly 9 in 10 health plan executives (88 percent) said they did Believe that transportation is the major barrier to members’ access to eye care services. This interruption underscores the need for health plan leaders to gather insights from members.