Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Patients with vision loss have longer stays, higher readmission rate

There’s yet another group of patients you can help get better faster and keep from being readmitted by focusing on their specific need – patients with vision loss. At least that’s what a new study found. 

Corrective Contact Lense Focuses Eye Chart Letters ClearlyThe study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), found that patients with vision loss who are admitted for common disorders, such as heart failure or pneumonia, are more likely to be readmitted and use costly emergency department services after discharge than non-visually impaired patients.

Knowing and understanding the needs of patients with vision loss is vital to getting and keeping these patients healthy, and reducing healthcare costs. Reason: Approximately 3% of Americans over the age of 40 are legally blind and another 23% have low vision.

“It is essential that hospitals develop plans to assist patients with blindness or low vision as well as their families and caregivers before, during and after hospitalization,” Alan Morse, JD, PhD, lead author of the study, and president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild of New York, said in a news release. “Focusing on the needs of patients with vision loss will lower costs and may lead to improved patient outcomes.”

Study results

The study compared nearly 6,000 patients with low vision or blindness in a large U.S. managed care network from 2001 to 2014 to the same number of patients without vision loss.

The researchers found:

  • The hospital length of stay for patients with blindness was longer (5.67 days) than it was for patients with no vision loss (4.61 days).
  • Readmission rates were also higher for patients with vision loss (21.1%) when compared to those with no vision loss (14.7).
  • Emergency department use was 29% higher among patients with blindness than for those without vision loss.
  • The average cost of a hospital stay for patients without vision loss was $47,289, for those with partial vision loss it was $48,870, and for those with legal blindness the average cost was $51,133. That makes the total excess cost related to hospitalization of Medicare patients with blindness or low vision $2.7 billion each year.

What you can do?

To make their hospital stays less stressful, the researchers noted that you should make sure all handouts, especially discharge and medication instructions, are in large print or braille. Providers should also review with these patients how they’ll identify their medications following discharge.

In addition, making sure their caregivers, both in the hospital and at home, understand the consequences of vison loss on care needs is important.

“We need to do more to be conscious of the impact that having vision loss has on hospitalization and take steps to minimize any potential negative impact,” noted Dr. Morse.



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