Article Date: 5/1/2007

Untitled Document



Jim Thomas

The $51.4 Billion Challenge
How will we address the growing problem of adult vision loss?

The costs associated with adult vision problems in the United States alone amount to $51.4 billion each year, says a new report from Prevent Blindness America (PBA). These costs are not limited to the victims of vision problems and their caregivers; they include nursing home care, government programs and lost productivity. (See “Calculating the Benefits of Sight,” p. 12 for additional details.) The largest direct medical cost among patients aged 40 through 64 is due to inpatient services for cataract and glaucoma. A breakdown of the costs reveals that:
• cataract, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, affects 21 million Americans age 40 and older and costs $6.8 billion annually.
• uncorrected or under-corrected refractive error costs $5.51 billion.
• glaucoma, which affects 2.2 million of those age 40 and older, costs $2.86 billion.
• age-related macular degeneration, the leading cost of vision loss in the developed world in people over the age of 65, costs $.57 billion.
• diabetic retinopathy, which affects more than 5.3 million Americans ages 18 and over, costs $.49 billion. A lead researcher, Kevin Frick, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that the number of people in the United States with impaired vision “could increase by at least 60% over the next three decades.”

Regarding public policy
Dr. Frick says that the solution to escalating costs due to vision loss is to focus on prevention. The report itself is part of PBA’s effort to ensure government resources are in place for research, treatment and prevention of eye disease. For this, PBA deserves our applause and support.

Regarding practice
In this issue of Optometric Management, we devote a good deal of space to imaging equipment, cameras and other diagnostic equipment that allow optometrists to detect disease much earlier than ever before. How these devices fit into any armamentarium is a decision that only you, as practice manager, can make. Certainly, the numbers provided in the PBA study suggest that all O.D.s continuously evaluate your patient base and the tools necessary to serve them.
We know that early detection and management of many conditions can preserve vision and lead to a better quality of life for many adult patients. We can now safely conclude that an “ounce of prevention” approach could potentially save billions of dollars.

Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007