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Survey finds UK adults underestimate the need for regular eye examinations

The survey, held by Johnson & Johnson Vision, found a “disconnect” between how the public views the importance of eye health and how regularly they attend an eye examination

child eye test

Research conducted by Johnson & Johnson Vision has found that, while most UK adults acknowledge that eye examinations are important for their overall health, only a third are having their eyes examined once a year.

The most common reason for putting off appointments was because respondents felt their vision hadn’t changed, while the impact of COVID-19 played a significant role in delays to appointments, Johnson & Johnson Vision found.

The company held the survey of 1002 UK adults ahead of World Sight Day on 8 October as part of Johnson & Johnson Vision’s Prioritise Your Eyes campaign, which aims to raise awareness of eye health.

Those surveyed appeared to recognise the importance of eye health and its impact on overall wellbeing, with results indicating that 86% of respondents view an eye exam as important for their overall health. Meanwhile 70% acknowledged that healthy vision improves quality of life, and 67% recognised that an eye exam can help prevent vision problems.

However, only 34% of those surveyed confirmed that they get an eye exam each year, something Johnson & Johnson Vision recommends to help patients to ‘Prioritize your eyes’. Just over half of respondents felt they did enough to protect their eyes.  

Johnson & Johnson Vision suggested the survey results revealed a “disconnect” in the public’s views around the importance of eye health and how they prioritise their own eye care.

Commenting on the survey, Jakob Sveen, managing director for Northern Europe and general manager for the UK & Ireland, Johnson & Johnson Vision, emphasised the company’s commitment to fulfilling unmet needs in eye health, “especially around awareness and access – the two biggest barriers to care.”

“This survey has uncovered new insights and opportunities around how we, as an eye health community, can help people to prioritise their eyes by getting an annual eye exam,” Mr Sveen added.

Providing reasons for why they do not get an eye exam once a year, a third of respondents explained that they put off appointments because they feel their vision hasn’t changed.

The second biggest factor behind why eye care has been delayed this year was the impact of COVID-19. The survey found that 18% of adults had their appointment cancelled due to the pandemic, while 19% of respondents said they were reluctant or unable to schedule a sight test due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, 18% of survey respondents suggested cost represented a barrier for them.

Reflecting on the challenges that COVID-19 has posed in balancing the backlog of appointments, Dr Ioannis G. Tranoudis, senior director EMEA professional education solutions at Johnson & Johnson Vision, noted the agility that eye care professionals (ECPs) have shown in communicating with, and supporting, patients.

“What we’ve seen is that emergency cases are prioritised first, so there may be a delay in being able to get everyone in quickly,” Dr Tranoudis told OT. He emphasised that any patient experiencing a change in vision or with concerns should reach out to their optometrist, adding: “As with all healthcare professionals in this time, ECPs have put in place new safety protocols so that patients can still receive quality care.”

Moving forward, the company’s focus will be in working with eye care professionals to get patients back into practice safely, he continued.

Asked what initial steps practices could take to enhance patient awareness around regular eye examinations, Dr Tranoudis highlighted: “Through lockdown, I saw a lot of eye care professionals increase their communications with patients through digital channels including email updates, newsletters, through their websites, and social media.”

“I would encourage that, when a practice is ready and has capacity, they communicate to patients the importance of an annual eye exam,” Dr Tranoudis said. “Even if a patient thinks they have good vision, an annual eye exam can be one of the best things they can do for health and wellness.”

Dr Tranoudis also suggested optometrists continue to reassure patients that it is safe to book an appointment if they have concerns about their eyes.

“We have heard a few stories of patients being afraid to reach out during lockdown despite having a serious vision issue. ECPs can help provide reassurance by reaching out to patients proactively, suggesting that they get in touch if they have any concerns,” Dr Tranoudis concluded.

The AOP recommends patients should have an eye test every two years, or more if recommended by an optometrist, and hosts a variety of resources for patients including advice on regular sight tests.

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