AOA, Safeway discuss benefits of integrated eye care
The AOA and supermarket chain Safeway Inc. recently co-presented evidence of the value of proper eye health and vision care for employees at a conference in San Diego.
"The AOA advocates for a comprehensive integrated model of eye health and vision care delivery."
Stephen Montaquila, O.D. (pictured left), who chairs the AOA's Third Party Center (TPC) Executive Committee, summarized the advantages of the AOA's rethink eye care benefit structure model. Kent Bradley, M.D. (pictured right), senior vice president and chief medical officer for Safeway Inc., discussed how providing eye health and vision benefits could lead to lower overall healthcare costs for employers who provide health benefits for their employees.
The presentations took place on May 7 at the 2014 Prevention and Wellness Congress, a conference sponsored by the World Congress.
Rethink eyecare encourages health care purchasers and payers to recognize the advantages of including ODs on their medical panels to provide all primary eye and vision care.
Too many gaps exist in timely and effective eye care treatment, Dr. Montaquila stated. Not enough patients get regular, comprehensive eye exams—and many don't receive needed follow-up care. "The AOA advocates for a comprehensive integrated model of eye health and vision care delivery," he said. Such an approach can save money, provide direct access to providers, and achieve better patient outcomes.
The rethink model incorporates strategies that reduce gaps in eye and vision care. Strategies include integrating comprehensive eye exams into medical plan benefits and incorporating eye health care messaging into health and wellness programs.
Nonusers of vision benefit see higher costs
Dr. Bradley described how Safeway's recent focus on eye health and vision care provides a valuable benefit for employees.
An initial data analysis revealed that Safeway employees with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease were slightly more likely to use their vision benefit.
Those who didn't use this benefit experienced overall higher healthcare costs. As an example, patients with diabetes who didn't use the benefit saw 20 percent higher costs, followed by cardiovascular disease patients at 15 percent, and hypertension patients at 7 percent.
Dr. Bradley said this information, while preliminary, was significant enough to warrant a deeper analysis.
According to TPC Director Lendy Pridgen, "Dr. Bradley plans to do further data analysis and research about eye health and vision care and the importance of an annual comprehensive eye exam to determine what specific recommendations he will make for improving Safeway employees' health and well-being."
As a self-funded insurance plan, Safeway could provide financial incentives to employees who get annual eye exams. The company already did so for dental examinations, Pridgen notes.
The AOA looks forward to working with Dr. Bradley and Safeway Health, Pridgen says. The goal: to more fully define the advantages of including a robust eye health and vision benefit as a core component of employee benefit packages. The AOA hopes all employers will eventually include ODs in their health and medical plan and vision care services provider panels, he adds.