Looking after our eyes should be a priority, says Jeremy Chadwick, managing director, EMEA, VSP Vision Care
Brits have long had a reputation for needing better dental care. But, as a fellow Brit, I would argue that vision care is actually the overlooked health care service that needs to be addressed. Eye care not only helps us see clearly, it also allows for the early detection of chronic diseases, supports increased productivity, and reduces overall health issues that can lead to absenteeism. As we look forward at what the future of health benefits will comprise, it’s time to focus on eye care as part of the next generation of employee benefits for British employees.
In America, citizens regard annual eye checks as essential and understand that good eye health is an important health indicator, but the British are a long way behind in this area. VSP’s own research recently found 44 per cent of UK men admit that not only have they not had an eye test in the last two years (the NHS’s suggested maximum interval for checks), but they’ve not actually had one since they were at school!
We think this is a sobering statistic, and it’s one that VSP is committed to changing by increasing access to eye care. One way this can be done is through benefit offerings. Regular and thorough eye care is an important benefit for employers to offer their employees. Unlike other forms of employee health benefits, VSP cover (which includes eye examinations and contributions to remedial vision support, such as glasses, contacts, or laser treatment) is not just designed to be used, but it is specifically designed so staff won’t have an excuse not to use it.
Working with more than 400 VSP network opticians and optometrists across the country is a key part of what makes this work. The network opticians and optometrists bill VSP direct, which means employees don’t have to pay for tests upfront and then claim the money back, like they do with cash plans. With no wait periods, co-pays or excesses to worry about, the VSP benefit is easy to use. We know cost and cash flow impacts are major reasons people don’t have their eyes seen more often.
Stopping the barriers is not only good for staff; it’s good for businesses too. The importance of having regular eye tests cannot be underestimated. Employees with healthy eyes who are supported with necessary vision correction are able to see well. This alone gives firms 20 per cent more productivity than those with poor eyesight. Additionally, having healthy and corrected vision means staff suffer less headaches, less dry eyes and less dizziness – all of which are often hidden sources of lost productivity to employers.
Another important factor is the connection to overall health. Regular comprehensive eye checks help to spot serious underlying medical conditions early on, like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol – the latter two are of which are known to be the key triggers of heart disease. With regular thorough eye checks included as part of a comprehensive vision care plan, the signs of more serious illness can be seen much earlier than it would be through traditional means. In fact, diabetes can be seen through an eye exam up to seven years earlier than a person would typically be diagnosed. With this knowledge, employees then have the insight to change their lifestyle behaviours and reduce or fully avoid serious health issues that would normally follow.
For the business, the benefit is more than just better staff engagement. Our confidential aggregated reporting for employers allows human resources to see if their overall workforce is at a higher risk for certain diseases than the general population. This gives employers the ability to shape their wellness program and benefits to better fit their employees’ needs.
And the latest research shows that blue light, the light emitted by digital devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers, also has the potential to cause serious damage to the eyes. In addition to eye strain, blue light exposure can also impact the cells in the retina and has the potential to cause macular degeneration. The increased use of technology causes an increased risk to our eyes. Employers are going to experience an increasingly aging workforce who is also affected by blue light exposure. Employers serious about supporting eye care will be seen as employers of choice. VSP cover gives employees access to regular screenings to monitor eye health, and also provides cover for specialized lenses that can help absorb and deflect blue light. This helps to safeguard the wearer against this exposure.
Employers may feel their eye care is adequately covered by a cash plan. While some support is better than nothing, our dedicated vision only support doesn’t suffer from the bundling up and qualifying periods that often come with cash plans. Cover allowances can also be provided to other family members in order to provide a more robust benefit offering. With a high value benefit available for a very low cost, it really is time to look properly at specialist vision care benefits.