When It Comes To Integrated Health Care, The Eyes Really Do Have It

by John Thorp, Anthem

August 10, 2017

There’s an old saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul. But they’re also windows into your health.

Vision care is about more than a pair of glasses. While checking vision is important, eye health can be tied to overall health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, optometrists often see indicators of health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure before the condition is diagnosed by another doctor. One company found its employees with diabetes who don’t use vision benefits have 20 percent higher health costs, and those with heart disease have 15 percent higher costs.

All the more reason to have vision coverage, right?

One study found that people who have vision coverage are more likely to get an eye exam than an annual physical. And employers that offer vision benefits saved $5.8 billion over four years due to lower health care costs, great productivity, and less turnover.

That bears repeating: Employers that offered vision benefits saved $5.8 billion. That’s billion with a B! If simply offering vision benefits can do that, imagine what connecting vision data to your population health can do.

Why connect your health care benefits?

An unhealthy population continues to be a growing national epidemic and public health issue. Something radical needs to be done to help change that. And that something radical is integrated population health management (IPHM).

The basic premise of IPHM is actually quite simple: Use more of what’s already known about employees’ overall health to develop more effective health and wellness interventions tailored to the needs of each individual.

It all starts with health data and claims information. Through analysis, we can gain actionable insights, develop health recommendations and find any gaps in care. All of that can be shared with patients, doctors and care teams for early detection and condition management — both of which are critical to lowering health costs while creating better outcomes.

It’s as simple to follow as an eye chart

By connecting vision data to your population health, vision claims may proactively trigger referral into a care management program to help at-risk members get care they need. And vision care alerts can be shared with doctors, members and care managers, creating more opportunities to better engage members in their health.

If that’s not radical enough for you, how’s this: IPHM can help lower health care-related costs — not just those specific to your health plan, but also those related to your business. After all, healthy employees are more productive employees.

In 2015, an analysis of claims data identified more than 22,000 members with diabetes through a routine eye exam. Care alerts and clinical communications to members, doctors and care managers say it all: 910,000 monthly vision care gaps identified, with 390,000 closed monthly.1

Radical thinking, indeed.

You can learn even more in the Integrated Health Care Vision Report.

John Thorp is Staff VP Vision Services at Anthem, Inc.


This is part of a series of six blog posts about integrated health care. Check out the previous posts and keep an eye out for the next one
1Anthem Inc.’s affiliated companies’ data 2016.