VSP Vision Care In-Practice HbA1c Screening Pilot Program in Ohio Emphasizes Role of Optometry in Early Detection of Diabetes

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RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—VSP Vision Care has announced the results of an in-practice HbA1c screening pilot program that underscored the important role doctors of optometry play in the early detection of diabetes and prediabetes. Given the pilot program’s impressive initial results, the nation’s leading health-focused and only not-for-profit vision benefits company will expand the program to two large Ohio-based clients in January 2021, the company said. “Diabetes is an epidemic affecting the lives of millions of Americans and its staggering prevalence continues to present challenges to a health care system already under pressure,” said VSP Vision Care president Kate Renwick-Espinosa.

“We’re motivated to explore new solutions, and our pilot program demonstrates yet another way eye doctors can play a unique and crucial role in the early detection of this chronic condition and can help drive better health outcomes for patients.”

There are 34.2 million Americans who live with diabetes and another 88 million Americans who live with prediabetes, all facing an increased risk for glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy—the leading cause of blindness in working age adults. Optometrists are often the first to detect signs of diabetes by looking at the blood vessels in the eye during a comprehensive eye exam.

Coupled with the fact that VSP members are more likely to get their annual eye exam over their annual physical exam with their primary care physician, HbA1c screenings provided by eye doctors offer another critical way to detect the chronic condition earlier and help prevent eye disease and even vision loss caused by diabetes.

Select VSP network practices participated in the pilot program, which was conducted from May 2019 through February 2020. Eligible patients who had come in for their annual eye exam were evaluated for prediabetes using the American Diabetes Association Risk Test and offered the HbA1c screening test, administered through a finger stick. VSP provided all pilot program materials at no cost to participating doctors and paid them a professional fee for all HbA1c screenings performed.

Key findings of the pilot program revealed:

• 85 percent of patients who were eligible for the HbA1c screening took it.

• 31 percent of patients who took the HbA1c screening scored in the prediabetes range, which was previously unknown to patients.

• 5 percent of patients who took the HbA1c screening scored in the diabetes range, which was previously unknown to patients.

• 92 percent of patients rated the screening as an extremely or very positive experience.

VSP is expanding the pilot program in partnership with two of its large clients in Ohio with approximately 90,000 members to continue measuring the ability to detect patients at risk for prediabetes and diabetes during their comprehensive eye exam. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Ohio with 1.3 million adults in the state estimated to have prediabetes and not know it, making this pilot program an opportunity for optometrists to make an even greater impact in the lives of their patients, VSP pointed out.

“As eye doctors, we see many patients who either don’t have a primary care physician or don’t see one regularly, which puts us on the front line to help detect and care for patients who have or may be at risk for diabetes,” said Ohio-based VSP network doctor Timothy Fries.

“This program allows for even earlier diagnosis and could lead to better treatment and management of diabetes, as well as preserving and protecting vision for those patients.”

The pilot program joins other initiatives designed to support eye doctors. Last year, VSP and the American Diabetes Association launched a multi-year public health initiative, as VMAIL reported last fall. The program is designed to raise awareness of the importance of eye exams in early detection and prevention of diabetes-related eye disease. As part of that effort, Premier Academy360 recently announced a new diabetes educational track that helps VSP network doctors differentiate their practice and support patients with or at risk for diabetes.

VSP network doctors in Ohio who would like to learn more about the pilot program or participate can contact VSP here.