Your eye health is just as important as taking care of your overall health. More often than not, most of us only realize this after it’s too late to do anything about it. Some eye diseases exhibit little or no symptoms until the eye is severely damaged. In light of this, it seems that more and more employees are demanding vision benefits in their workplaces.
This graph shows that the demand for vision to be covered in employee benefits has risen from 78 percent in 2015 to 81 percent in 2016. As you can see, vision care is tied with dental care. As employees become more astute about their eye health, employers need to respond appropriately.
Digital Eye Strain
Digital eye strain is the most relevant condition to those in the workplace. Not surprisingly, 65 percent of Americans suffer from the condition. Whether you have an existing eye condition or not, everyone is at risk of suffering from digital eye strain. Those who work in an office or any other job that requires long hours in front of a computer screen are at an especially high risk.
Digital eye strain is a condition that is easily treatable and preventable. Digital eye strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome, occurs when your eyes are focused on a screen for too long. This isn’t to say that every time you need to use a computer, tablet or smartphone that your eyes will immediately be at risk.
In fact, several factors can influence your level of digital eye strain risk: small font size, screen brightness, screen distance (from the eye), and the continuous time spent looking at the screen.
There are a few things employers can do to help. The first is to encourage employees to talk to their eye doctors about digital device use. It may seem silly since using digital devices is like breathing to most of us, but your doctor will be able to recommend ways to prevent digital eye strain. You’re not alone in this; the Vision Council reported this year that 90 percent of people don’t talk to their doctors about digital device use.
Employers may also take it upon themselves to have screen filters installed on computers in the workplace. These will filter out blue light, a harmful artificial light emitted by screens. Often the free version of these filters work just as well as the paid version. This will help employees’ eyes to relax while staring at the screen.
Some prevention methods will depend on the individual employee, but employers can make sure that employees are well aware of these methods. Making font size bigger and adjusting the height and distances of computers will depend on each individual employee.
If you think you’re suffering from digital eye strain, you’ll likely have frequent headaches, neck and back pains, temporary blurred vision and sometimes eye pain.
If an employee finds themselves suffering from digital eye strain, they will need an eye exam. Seeing as eye exams in general cost anywhere from $50 to $250, it would be beneficial for this cost to be covered by health benefits. Especially for those who work in an environment where digital eye strain is common.
Chronic Illnesses and Eye Disease
As an employee, you’re not only going to want coverage for eye exams, but also for adequate medical coverage. Chronic illnesses often affect the whole body, eyes included. If you find yourself with a chronic illness, medical bills will be costly enough without the added stress of an eye disease developing because of it.
You may remember a certain song called “Dem Bones” (sometimes known as “The Skeleton Dance”, from your childhood. We’re taught from a very young age that everything in the body in connected and if one part fails, the repercussion will be felt throughout the body.
When did we forget this basic principle? Why have we separated medical benefits from vision benefits? Employers across the country should ask themselves this exact question. Luckily some have already begun to ask and realize that perhaps an integrated approach to vision and medical health is the right way to go.
Certain programs are in development to include more personalized benefit coverage. Say, for example, you are a diabetic employee. These new programs will be tailored to your personal needs as a person with diabetes. You’ll be referred to disease management programs. This includes seeing an eye care professional about your chronic illness and how it can affect your eyesight.
Another feature is the automatic notification of eye care professionals when an employee is diagnosed with a chronic illness that poses a direct threat to their eye health. This is an especially good feature since most of us wouldn’t even think to notify our eye doctors on our own.
Along with the previous feature, another one includes phone calls from eye doctors to employees who suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, vascular disease or have high cholesterol. This will serve as a friendly reminder to get an annual eye exam and has proven to be more effective than a simple letter in the mail.
Medical health and eye health are one in the same. They may need care from doctors of different specializations, but at the end of the day, all parts of the body need to work in harmony to be truly healthy. As employers, you have the ability to better your employees’ health, especially with these new programs available.
As employees, don’t be afraid to ask your employer for more information about your current benefits and how you can improve them. If you find that you aren’t getting enough out of your vision benefits, share this newfound knowledge with your coworkers. There is strength in numbers.
The more employees ask for better vision and medical benefits, the more employers will have to listen. Employers, your employees deserve the best benefits out there.