Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed with glaucoma, but fortunately for many this occurs at an early enough stage that they are able to receive treatment to halt or slow the progression of the debilitating condition. However, this therapy does not come cheap and a new study has highlighted that the majority of the glaucoma care outlay is actually being spent on a relatively small group of people.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center and Washington University, St Louis, have found that a small subset of patients with open-angle glaucoma (OAG) account for a large proportion of all glaucoma-related charges.
These findings, although based on US research, may have global ramifications and stress the importance of future evaluations of the cost-effectiveness of screening and treatment for glaucoma. Lead author Dr Joshua Stein, glaucoma specialist at Kellogg, said it was important to identify risk factors associated with patients who are the costliest recipients of glaucoma-related eyecare.
"Among these factors are younger age … undergoing cataract surgery, and having other eye conditions. Understanding the characteristics of these individuals and finding ways to reduce disease burden and costs associated with their care can result in substantial cost savings," he explained.
Establishing the same risk factors across the planet could help healthcare budgets to be set aside and for treatment to be targeted to cut costs.
The study, which was published in an issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, reviewed claims data from 19,927 patients with newly-diagnosed OAG. The researchers identified glaucoma-related charges for all such patients from 2001 to 2009 and found that the costliest five per cent of enrolees were responsible for 24 per cent of all glaucoma-related charges. They also discovered that glaucoma patients generally consume the greatest relative share of resources during their first six months of care after diagnosis.
Dr Stein commented: "Developing an understanding of the resource use of people with glaucoma and identifying those expected to have the largest resource use is important in a resource-constrained healthcare environment." "Further, by collecting longitudinal information on resource use we can better quantify the value of slowing glaucoma progression through various interventions."