Everyday heroes

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ECPs saving Canada billions in health care costs

By David Goldberg

Investing in eye care has never been more valuable.

A new report by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society estimates that the work of eye care professionals across the country saved at least $1.6 billion in direct health care costs in 2020 and that number is expected to reach $4 billion by 2040.

“The odds of getting a serious eye disease are higher than you think. Through early detection, treating vision loss provides life-changing impacts on patients and their families, including regained independence and quality of life,” says Dr. Colin Mann, COS’s president. 

Among the ‘big five’ eye conditions that are responsible for the majority of vision loss are eye injuries and the diseases of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Dr. Philip Hooper, one of the report’s authors, is an associate professor at the Ivey Eye institute in London, Ont. He believes the findings validate the work his colleagues are doing.

“Particularly in these times, it’s always nice to feel that you’re making a difference. But I think we need to redouble our efforts to communicate with the public about what we are capable of doing and the importance of regular eye examinations.”

Of all the disease categories in Canada, vision loss has the highest direct health care cost. The report shows that the economic benefits of averting vision loss far outweigh the cost of delivering ophthalmic interventions.

“Loss of sight has huge indirect costs,” explains Dr. Hooper. “It’s about four to one in terms of the effect on employment, the effect on leisure activities, the effect on self-care because of the inability to cook for one’s self, clean and the loss of driving.”

According to the study, an estimated 263,400 individuals will have improved vision in 2020 through ophthalmic interventions. By treating vision loss, approximately 82,500 negative medical outcomes will be avoided, including injuries or other associated health care needs such as falls, hip fractures, depression, anxiety, admission into long-term care and use of home care or caregiver services.

Consider this a call to action. Dr. Hooper says the time to invest is now. 

“There will need to be considerable investment in eyecare over the next 20 years in order to keep up with demand so that we don’t fall behind in our ability to provide care.”

 

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