Why eye health matters to you — as a patient and an employer – Atlanta Business Chronicle – Atlanta Business Chronicle

Barely six years old, Matt Greiner already knew he’d grow up to be a firefighter. Little did he know, later that year, he’d be diagnosed with a life-changing disease — Type 1 diabetes.
But Greiner didn’t let diabetes stop him from pursuing his dream job. Now a 27-year-old firefighter in California, Greiner credits the support of a strong health care team with keeping him healthy – including the eye doctor he’s seen since his diabetes diagnosis more than 20 years ago.
“My eye doctor has been in my corner since I was diagnosed,” said Greiner, who faithfully gets his comprehensive annual eye exam to help ensure the health of his eyes and monitor for any risks associated with diabetes. “It should be in the back of your mind every day to take care of your vision and see your eye doctor regularly.”
We should all take Greiner’s advice. Why? Because your eyes give doctors a window into what’s happening inside your body. In fact, comprehensive eye exams may provide early detection for hundreds of chronic health conditions including diabetes.
For more than 15 years, we at VSP Vision Care have partnered with network doctors to identify and engage VSP members with chronic conditions through our claims system. What we have found is VSP doctors are twice as likely to be the first touch point for patients seeking care. And they often report chronic conditions, like diabetes, before any other health care provider, according to a November 2021 study published by Workpartners®, a leader in human capital management (formerly HCMS Group). Workpartners analyzed the health outcomes of VSP members against those from other vision plans, based on its proprietary research reference database of more than 4.3 million employees and their dependents.
Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, continue to be among the costliest health conditions in the United States. People with diabetes average medical costs 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes, while health care spending associated with high blood pressure costs the nation nearly $50 billion each year.
But when these conditions are identified early through annual comprehensive eye exams, doctors can use more impactful interventions, which in turn lower health care costs for employers and patients. According to a previous study by Workpartners, employers who offered stand-alone vision benefits experienced $5.8 billion in cost savings over four years.
Employees save, too. In fact, according to Workpartners, VSP members with a chronic condition incur fewer health care costs in the first year after diagnosis than members of other vision plans. More specifically, VSP members with diabetes avoided annual medical and drug costs of nearly $1,800 compared to members of other vision plans. And for VSP members with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the savings were even greater. They avoided annual medical and drug costs of more than $2,600 compared to other plan members.
Now more than ever, a healthier, more productive and engaged workforce is critical. The pandemic has created a “great re-evaluation” in employees’ personal values and priorities, driving a greater emphasis on health and wellness. Comprehensive benefits and access to a suite of preventive care services can improve productivity and employee engagement and retention.
By 2030, chronic diseases could cost American businesses an extra $794 billion annually in lost employee productivity. But when those conditions are identified early through a comprehensive eye exam or other health care visit, patients can more effectively address and manage their health challenges — leading to healthier, happier and more productive employees.
Beyond helping with employee engagement and productivity, a strong benefits offering is a great recruitment and retention tool. It’s a way to show your employees that you care deeply about their well-being at a time when it matters most. Nearly 70% of workers say voluntary benefits, like vision benefits, influence retention. What’s more, Workpartners found VSP members were between five and eight times less likely to terminate in the same year than non-VSP members.
But most importantly, in addition to the cost-savings and productivity gains, preventive care like an eye exam helps people live healthier, better lives. Our focus at VSP is to help our members see well and be well, so they can reach their full potential — just like Greiner. VSP members are generally healthier, according to Workpartners, leading to the conclusion that the identification of a chronic condition through a comprehensive eye exam leads to better outcomes.
And that’s why we believe vision benefits are more than a “nice to have.” They should be considered part of a whole-body approach to health and a comprehensive preventive care plan. So, take the time to review your vision benefits — and see how vision care can help your employees and your bottom line.
VSP Vision Care provides access to eye care for nearly 80 million members through a network of over 39,000 doctors worldwide. See how vision benefits can help your company.
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