After Hospital Discharge: Does a Diagnosis of Vision Loss Affect the Use of Healthcare?

Previous research using national samples found that patients with vision loss admitted to the hospital for common disorders spend more time in the hospital, are more likely to be readmitted and are more likely to use costly emergency department services after discharge than non-visually impaired patients.

The subject of post-hospitalization costs was addressed at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) by Alan R. Morse*, Paul P. Lee, William H. Seiple**, Nidhi Talwar and Joshua D. Stein, in their presentation “The Impact of Vision Loss on Healthcare Use by Medicare Beneficiaries Following Hospital Discharge”

Their study assessed whether a diagnosis of vision loss affects healthcare use following hospital discharge. Using a national claims database they compared a large group of Medicare patients who had or did not have vision loss to compare their length of stay in the hospital and need for hospital readmission following discharge as well as emergency department visits and costs after hospital discharge for common medical conditions.

As with their earlier work, they found that patients with vision loss incurred higher costs than patients without vision loss.

Understanding the Needs of Patients with Low Vision

The findings of Dr. Morse and his colleagues point to the importance of understanding the needs of patients with vision loss. “Hospitals should develop plans to assist visually impaired patients and their families and caregivers before, during and after hospitalization. The fact that cost is impacted is important, but it’s a public health issue of how do we model better care for people with vision loss,” said Dr. Morse. At Lighthouse Guild, we have begun to develop a toolkit and other products to help hospitals better address the needs of the patients with vision loss.

Hospitalization is stressful for patients and families, he continued. For patients with vision loss, measures such as making sure discharge and medication instructions are in large print or Braille and reviewing how patients will be able to identify their medications following hospitalization can make a difference. Dr. Morse noted that, “discharging a patient with an information sheet and postsurgical care instructions that the patient cannot read will hamper their recovery and may adversely affect their health.”

Considering these co-existing conditions when patients are admitted to the hospital could lead to a better experience for patients, improve patient outcomes and help to reduce the cost of care.

Alan R. Morse*, JD, PhD, President and CEO, Lighthouse Guild; Paul P. Lee, MD, PhD, F. Bruce Fralick Professor and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Michigan Medical School and Director of the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center; William H. Seiple**, PhD, Vice President of Research, and Director, the Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute, Lighthouse Guild; Nidhi Talwar, W.K. Kellogg Eye Center; Joshua D. Stein, MD, MS, W.K. Kellogg Eye Center.

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