People can lose their eyesight for a variety of reasons. Our vision deteriorates with age so, as Europe's population ages, more people need their vision corrected. The most common solution is one of MedTech's earliest innovations – spectacles. Those who prefer not to wear glasses can avail of contact lenses and laser eye surgery.
Vision loss can also result from eye diseases which affect a large and growing number of Europeans. Around 1 in 10 suffers from cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), according to research by Deloitte. 1
Impact on our economy and society
Blindness carries a significant economic burden. Nursing care, hospitalisation, surgery and loss of productivity have a direct effect on healthcare and social systems.
- Direct healthcare costs of eye diseases are estimated to be in excess of €18 billion per year, according to a study of 11 EU Member States 1.
- There are also significant indirect costs:
- More than 120 million workdays are lost per year due to eye diseases.
- 20% of the total annual economic cost of blindness is due to health spending.
- More than a quarter of the total cost is due to productivity loss while the remainder – more than half is attributed to the cost of informal care.
"The economic costs are tremendous," says Omer Saka, Director Market Access Strategy & Health Economics Group at Deloitte Belgium. "By deploying cost-effective treatments and prevention methods you can avert the healthcare costs and the burden on society from productivity loses and indirect costs."
Although the potential burden of eye disease is growing in Europe for demographic reasons, the MedTech sector has developed a range of solutions that can help to minimise the impact of vision loss on individuals, their families and the wider economy.
One way to contain costs is to identify problems early and intervene accordingly.
- Screening for glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy has been shown to save billions of euros.
- Early identification of cataracts and prompt treatment of ARMD has been shown to be cost-effective.
- Cataract surgery is another excellent example of how the MedTech industry has responded to Europe's needs. Around one in five people aged over 40 can experience 'cloudiness' caused by the accumulation of proteins on the lens in their eye. Vision can be restored by surgically removing this protein build-up.
In the past, people stayed in hospital overnight after the operation but today, same-day surgery means patients can have their cataracts removed in the morning and sleep in their own bed that same night. This works just as well as inpatient surgery and is just as safe. It is also cost-effective and popular with patients.
Same-day cataract removal is more efficient for health systems, saving money on costly hospitalisation. Research has found that same-day cataract surgery cut costs by 69% compared to inpatient surgery2 .
"There is a huge economic burden which runs into billions of euro,' says Professor Ian Banks, of the European Forum Against Blindness. 'This is money we could use for building hospitals, schools and roads. This money and the human suffering that goes with it could be saved if only we stopped blindness before it happens."
The impact of blindness on individuals, families and society is profound. People who lose their sight suffer a dramatic drop in quality-of-life: their mobility and independence are severely restricted; they can suffer psychological distress; and they must deal with an increased risk of falls and household accidents.
When a family member is blind, it becomes a shared challenge. Spouses, siblings and offspring often spend hours caring for loved ones who cannot see.
Technological advances continue in the eyecare sector with the industry delivering value by facilitating not just the restoration of lost vision but also quicker recovery times – helping people get back to living normal, productive lives.
- What is the Ophthalmology Sector Group?
- Healthcare and active ageing: patient choice in cataract care
- Deloitte: Cost of Preventable Blindness (October 2014)
- Fattore G, Torbica A. Cost and reimbursement of cataract surgery in Europe: a cross-country comparison. Health Econ. 2008;17:S71–S82