New guidelines that outline best practices for measuring the economic burden
of visual impairment will make it easier for the policy, science and medical communities to draw conclusions and compare results across studies.
And it seems the most comprehensive study of costs related to visual impairment was produced in Australia.
The guidelines arose from a working group convened by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), published this month in the ARVO journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
The group, representing participants from around the world and from major vision research organisations, came together to review the methods used in two U.S. studies and one Australian study and to develop a consensus on appropriate methods to employ in future studies on the cost of vision impairment.
The published article quoted the Australian study said costs were classified into the categories which include direct health care costs, indirect costs, and the costs associated with the loss of well-being.
The article said: “Direct health care costs can be further divided into hospital (both inpatient and outpatient) and other health costs (pharmaceuticals, imaging, pathology, optometry, aged care, other health professionals, and other medical expenses). For this discussion, we have relabeled the costs because the term “indirect costs” has been used in different studies to refer to overhead, productivity loss, or any cost not directly related to the monetary costs of medical care. The relabeled terms include monetary expenditures on health care (medical and other), monetary expenditures on things other than health care (mainly aids and adaptations such as Braille devices and stair lighting, but also potential travel costs and other monetary expenditures), loss of family member productivity, deadweight losses, loss of patient productivity, and loss of patient well-being.
“Individuals’ and family members’ expenditures for aids and other modifications are part of the non-health care monetary costs. All costs related to the condition but not paid to someone in the health care system are in this category. For example, spectacles or intraocular lenses would be “other” health costs, whereas canes or guide dogs would probably be in this non-health care category. Notably, different aspects of cost are “medicalised” in different countries; in some places families provide most of the care, whereas in others, formal health care is more common”.
In addition to the monetary costs, the Australian study accounted for the value of the time that informal carers/givers spend in providing care.
According to the study’s lead author, Johns Hopkins University researcher Kevin Frick, PhD: “When estimates of the cost of visual impairment vary over time or across countries, policy makers are left to ponder whether one estimate differs from another because of changes in the population, changes in the impact of the disease or changes in the methods. Researchers can help policy makers by removing one of the potential variables – changes in methods.”