Vision Loss Linked To Increased Hospital Length of Stay, Higher Readmission Rates and Increased Costs

May 4, 2016

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Vision Loss Linked To Increased Hospital Length of Stay, Higher Readmission Rates and Increased Costs

Lighthouse Guild Research Highlights Importance of Addressing Needs of Patients with Vision Loss

NEW YORK (May 4, 2016)— A national study has found that patients with vision loss who are 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 findings were presented on May 4, in Seattle, at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) by lead author Dr. Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild of New York.

The findings of Dr. Morse and his colleagues point to the importance of understanding the needs of patients with vision loss. “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. Focusing on the needs of patients with vision loss will lower costs and may lead to improved patient outcomes,” said Dr. Morse.

Financial Impact

Approximately 3% of Americans over the age of 40 are legally blind and another 23% have low vision. The study found the average cost of a hospital stay for patients without vision loss was $47,289, for those with partial vision loss $48,870, and for those with legal blindness $51,133. Based on these figures, it is estimated that the total excess cost related to hospitalization of Medicare patients with blindness or low vision is $2.7 billion each year.

Thousands of Patients Compared Over 13 Years

In reaching their conclusions, Dr. Morse and his co-authors, Dr. William Seiple of Lighthouse Guild, Drs. Paul Lee and Joshua Stein of the University of Michigan together with Nidhi Talwar, also of the University of Michigan, compared almost 6,000 patients with low vision or blindness in a large United States managed care network from 2001 to 2014 to the same number of patients without vision loss. All patients had been hospitalized for common medical conditions, such as heart failure or pneumonia. The hospital length of stay for patients with blindness was about one day longer than for patients with no vision loss. Patients with blindness spent an average of 5.67 days in the hospital, while those with no vision loss spent an average of 4.61 days. Readmission rates were 21.1% for patients with vision loss compared with 14.7% for those with no vision loss. Emergency department use was 29% higher for patients with blindness than for those without vision loss. Patients with vision loss that was not at the level of blindness also had longer lengths of stay, increased readmission rates, and increased use of the emergency department. As a result, these patients incurred significantly higher costs as well.

Dr. Morse said, “Hospitalization is stressful for patients and families. 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. It is also important that their caregivers – in and out of the hospital – understand the consequences of vision loss on care needs. 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.”

About Lighthouse Guild

Lighthouse Guild is the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities or chronic medical conditions. With more than 200 years of experience and service, Lighthouse Guild brings a level of understanding to vision care that is unmatched. By integrating vision and healthcare services and expanding access through its programs and education and awareness, we help people lead productive, dignified and fulfilling lives. For more information:

About the Study Authors

Alan R. Morse, JD, PhD, is President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild of New York, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, a trustee of the Healthcare Association of New York State, and a member of the advisory panel on Addressing Disparities of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Paul P. Lee, MD, JD, the F. Bruce Fralick Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of the W.K. Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is also on the faculty of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

William Seiple, PhD, is Vice President of Research and Director, Arlene R. Gordon Research Institute Lighthouse Guild and Professor of Ophthalmology at NYU School of Medicine, a Research Biologist at the VA in Chicago, Adjunct Professor at the School of Optometry at the State University of NY, Visiting Professor at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science from Chicago and Visiting Professor at the University Pierre at Marie Curie, Paris, France.

Joshua D. Stein, MD, MS, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and Institute of Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Nidhi Talwar, MA, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Contact: Bryan Dotson, Manners Dotson Group,

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