Together towards the best eyecare in the world
Optics stores with their ophthalmology services are together building the best eyecare in the world. In this situation, high-quality vision products and eyecare services would be available to everyone equally and cost-effectively.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet. However, we have taken major steps in the right direction. On this page, we describe how we are going to reach our goal and why it is important.
Why should you be worried about the availability of vision and eyecare services?
The age structure of the population is changing rapidly both in Finland and globally. The proportion of people of retirement age is strongly increasing while the working age population is declining. Many eye diseases are related to ageing, and consequently, the resourcing problems of eye health care and the need to forecast them will increase significantly in the coming years.
It has been estimated that ageing will as much as double the number of patients with diabetic eye disease, cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration by the end of the decade. At the same time, the annual health care costs of €1.7 billion caused by these groups of diseases will double.
This means that public health care alone cannot handle the multiplying number of patients. The situation is not helped by the fact that the waiting lists for eye diseases, in particular, have grown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, municipalities and hospital districts have postponed non-urgent treatments to the degree that postponed treatments are now threatening to pose a larger risk to public health than the Covid-19 pandemic posed.
Optics stores have an important role in detecting eye diseases
Every year, around one million Finns visit an opticians, or an optometrist as they are now called, to have their eyes tested. Finland’s primary eyecare services are provided through optics stores – including 90% of all the ophthalmology services in the country. A network of nearly 700 optical stores reaches people well across the country.
An optometrist conducts eye examinations but also increasingly detects eye health problems. The current education of an optometrist also supports this development. For example, eye examinations can reveal macula changes that may suggest conditions such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma.
Early detection is important since the changes may remain asymptomatic for a long time and progress surreptitiously. If left untreated, eye diseases can lead to permanent visual impairment. If an optometrist discovers something unusual, they will always refer the customer to an examination by an ophthalmologist.
Public and private health care must be linked more closely
As the population ages and public health care becomes more strained, optometrists – i.e., licensed opticians with a limited right to prescribe medication – have a significant role to play in detecting and monitoring eye diseases that cost millions to the society every year. In order to detect and treat eye diseases in time, optometrists and ophthalmologists must engage in wider and closer collaboration in the future.
This collaboration would also bring in savings – up to €30 million a year (link in Finnish). The cost-efficiency of optics stores is based on a market-determined combination of product retail and health care services. The combination enables a profitable business and provides ophthalmology services even in small places across the country. Optics stores are able to finance a large share of the eyecare services they provide with customer payments alone, which are typically around €40 or €21.