The Importance of Eye Health Management

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO June 23, 2011

Hi there, it’s me again. It is hard to believe, but I am officially able to reflect on a 30-year career in optometry. We all recognize the tremendous increase in scope of practice and optometry’s emergence as an integral part of the healthcare team.

We not only diagnose and treat ocular conditions, but with skill and compassion counsel our patients about ocular signs and symptoms of systemic disease. More and more of our patients present with diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and a host of other chronic illnesses. Our skill in early detection and our ability to communicate our findings to both our patients and their primary care physician sets the stage for early intervention and treatment.

The VSP Eye Health Management Program® has proven to be a key differentiator in the marketplace. VSP has demonstrated both cost effectiveness and return on investment for clients by highlighting optometric involvement in chronic disease management. With healthcare costs continuing to escalate, increasingly, benefit managers are recognizing the importance of eye health management. When VSP wins, private practice wins because far more patients accrue to VSP doctors’ offices than with competitor plans.

The Eye Health Management Program also provides an excellent opportunity to aggregate data and document optometric participation in the medical management of chronic disease. In this era of healthcare reform, all provider groups must demonstrate both cost effectiveness and excellent outcomes. I believe it is high time for optometry to produce unequivocal data proving to health policy makers, health plans, and the public at large its essential role on the health care team. VSP cannot do it alone, however. Doctors must step up to help collect and report the data.

Perhaps a few reassurances are in order regarding the Eye Health Management Program. First of all, VSP is not moving into the medical eyecare business. The program is designed to reduce healthcare costs for clients and to facilitate patient care. Second, the program fully complies with HIPAA guidelines and patient data can be shared with employers for the purpose of wellness and disease management. Finally, this program has proven itself to be a winner for patients, doctors, clients, and VSP, and should be supported.

VSP feels so strongly about the importance of this data that it is now paying doctors for documentation of chronic disease conditions. Both VSP and optometry need to put their best foot forward and this program helps both. The important story of optometry making a difference in the lives of patients through chronic disease management needs to be told. In addition, the cost effectiveness of optometric care needs to be trumpeted. In this era of escalating healthcare costs, optometry delivers real value. To tell the story, statistically significant data must be collected. If not by us, who? If not now, when? Please do your part…CHECK THE BOX!

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