Versant Health, Inc. released the results of its third annual Vision Wellness Study, finding that consumer opinions of the value of vision care as part of whole-body health are rising. In fact, more people agree that the ability to identify both eye diseases and chronic health conditions are highly valuable services offered by eye doctors. Additionally, the use of virtual eye care options—including telemedicine, tech-enabled communication, and online eyewear shopping—have both increased year-over-year and influenced consumers’ insurance benefits decisions.
The Vision Wellness Study surveyed consumers on their evolving perceptions of eye care over the past two years of living with a global pandemic, including the importance they place on eye care services, their beliefs about the connections between eye health and overall health, and the factors that influence current insurance benefit decisions.
Evolving Perceptions of Vision Care and Insurance
Of those survey respondents who received an eye exam during the past two years, 70% say the ability to identify eye diseases is a high-value service offered by eye doctors, up from 65% last year. To add, 61% say the ability to identify other serious diseases is a high-value service offered by eye care providers, slightly up from 59% last year. This points to a gradual increase in the importance consumers place on their eye care visits, which we may continue to see in coming years, as more people consider the care resources that support their whole-body health.
Virtual eye care options are having a greater influence on how—and the likelihood that—people seek eye care moving forward. In fact, more than one-third (37%) of respondents believe that telemedicine is a very important healthcare topic in general. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents say having access to virtual visits and telemedicine would make them more likely to make an eye doctor appointment, and nearly one-third (31%) say having access to virtual visits and telemedicine would make them more likely to purchase vision insurance, a 10% increase over last year.
“The pandemic has created an increased desire for telemedicine that is here to stay, even in the eye health space,” says Dr. Mark Ruchman Chief Medical Officer at Versant Health. “The ‘new normal’ for insurers and managed care organizations that are engaging members and patients in their whole-body health includes innovating the way they access and experience tech-enabled vision care services.”
Beyond telemedicine, consumers’ opinions of eye care and insurance are impacted by virtual access to communication with doctors. More than one-third (39%) of respondents who have received an eye exam in the past two years say that communicating virtually/remotely with their eye doctor has a high impact on them seeing them more often, compared to 31% who said the same last year. Additionally, one-third (34%) say that being able to buy eyewear online has a high impact on them seeing an eye doctor more often, compared to 27% who said the same last year. Of those respondents who do not have vision insurance, half (50%) think that being able to use insurance to purchase eyewear online would make them more likely to purchase vision insurance, up from 41% last year.
The Social Determinants of Eye Health
Costs of care and lack of insurance coverage often present as the major barriers to vision care for lower-income households (i.e., earning less than $35,000 per year). More than a quarter (28%) of lower-income households say they don’t have vision insurance that covers their eye care costs, compared to 15% of middle-income households (those earning between $35,000 and $75,000 annually) and 9% of higher-income households (those earning more than $75,000 annually) that say the same. More than one-third (35%) of lower-income households say cost and affordability is the reason they don’t see an eye doctor as often as they’d like, compared to 23% of middle-income and 16% of higher-income households.
Potentially resulting from concerns regarding care costs, lower-income households express interest in cost containment measures they can take at home and affordable access to care. The majority (87%) of lower-income households say getting advice on nutrition for better eye health would make them more likely to make an eye doctor appointment, compared to 66% of higher-income households that agree. To add, 53% of lower-income households say members of their household would see an eye doctor more often if virtual communication for advice and information and appointment scheduling were options, compared to 34% of higher-income households
“Our health outcomes are directly related to our socioeconomic status,” says Liz Klunk, RN, BSN, CCM-R, Head of Medical Management Strategy and Development at Versant Health, Inc. “We truly believe that health plans and managed vision care partners can play a significant role in addressing issues of social determinants through advanced member outreach program design that improves access to care in the face of societal inequities. The proof is in member outcomes, and we’ve seen it work.”
Additional findings from the third annual Vision Wellness Study include:
- Differences in Demographic Experiences of Eye Care: Households with children are concerned with eye care affordability—48% of people with children in the household said that a very important healthcare topic is how to establish a savings fund for emergency medical care, as opposed to only 28% of people without children in the household. Alternatively, working-age adults prioritize convenience around their work lives, with 33% of respondents under the age of 40 citing their work schedule as a reason for not visiting the eye doctor as often as they’d like. Seniors are the most interested in seeing their eye doctor than they do currently, with 67% of respondents ages 60+ saying that being able to get covered routine eye exams more frequently was of high value.
- The Medicaid Need for Both Cost and Convenience: Respondents with Medicaid who have received an eye exam in the past two years more often say the reason their household members do not get an eye exam as often as they’d like are cost/lack of transportation at 17%, no telemedicine option at 19%, and lack of clarity around whether they have vision insurance at 13%. To add, 20% of Medicaid respondents said they have needed new eyewear but delayed for financial reasons, higher than the 15% of general population respondents who say the same. Still, 85% of Medicaid respondents say having eye exams covered would have a high impact on their likelihood of purchasing vision care insurance, compared to 71% of general population respondents, and 75% of Medicaid respondents say access to virtual visits/telemedicine would make them more likely to make an eye doctor appointment, compared to 65% of general population respondents.
Versant Health’s third annual Vision Wellness Study, conducted between February 7 and February 18, 2022, included one survey fielded by Market Measurement, a custom market research firm. The survey comprises 558 responses from consumers ages 18 and older. 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 and insurance.
About Versant Health
Versant Health, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife, Inc., is one of the nation’s leading administrators of managed vision care companies serving more than 38 million client members nationwide. Through our Davis Vision and Superior Vision independent provider networks, we help members access the wonders of sight through healthy eyes and vision. Administering vision and eye health solutions that range from access to routine vision benefits to medical management, Versant Health has unique visibility and scale across the total eye health value chain. As a result, our clients’ members enjoy a seamless experience with access to one of the broadest provider networks in the industry and an exclusive frame collection. Commercial groups, employer plans, and health plans that serve government-sponsored programs such as Medicaid and Medicare are among our valued customers.
For more information visit versanthealth.com.