Your glasses may be stylish but is your eye test more important? The MM interview

22nd July 2014

The Mindful Money interview with Jeremy Chadwick, managing director, VSP Vision Care

VSP Vision Care is a global firm specialising in providing eye care to employees as a workplace benefit. It has plans to shake up the UK market and reach as many as one in five employees across the UK, but it has wider ambitions.

Managing director Jeremy Chadwick believes the firm has a convincing case to make to employers – that employees with better eyesight and eye care are more productive.

But the firm also has a very strong message about taking an optometrist’s work more seriously as part of the process of testing and monitoring your eyesight. This can help people take action to stop their eyesight deteriorating, but it can also warn of developing chronic health issues.

MM: What is rationale behind VSP Vision Care?

Chadwick: “It is about trying to close the gap around the world for people’s access and affordability to eye health. The eye is a key sensory organ – the most feared sensory loss, so getting the right eye examination to drive the right prescription on a regular basis is important. It drives your ability to see and people who can see more, do more and they do it better and more accurately. That is the vision correction part. The exams also pick up causes of sight loss; glaucoma, advanced macular disease, wet and dry eye, things that you really want to get on top of, so regular access to an eye exam is important and that is what we provide.”

MM: What is the eye examination so important?

Chadwick: “In addition to helping a person see clearly, an eye exam can also show signs of chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Signs of diabetes can be seen in an eye exam up to seven years before typically detected through other means. Early detection allows for early treatment and management of the disease, which ultimately impacts a person’s overall health and productivity.”

MM: So what are the advantages for an employer who, after all, is likely to fund the benefit?

Chadwick: “There is a huge advantage for both an individual and for an employer who might fund this product. As well as a productivity gain, there is the vision correction issue. Someone with the right vision is up to a third more productive – they are away from their worksite less and they do more when they are there. There are not getting headaches. All of that drives a return on investment.

“This service is either company funded or part funded. Typically the point of engagement is around the duty of care around work screens/VDUs. That is what employers know about initially. There is an awareness of eye costs through intervention and disease management. There is a huge value-add to employers in having a vision plan, because it reduces costs and helps make people more productive. Typically, it costs around £2.50 per employee, topping at about £10. We work on a group basis and don’t adopt an age rating approach.”

MM: Are people not just looking for a benefit that will help them get a nice pair of glasses?

“Eyewear is part of a fashion statement for many people. We have open source system, so you can get your glasses from anywhere, but we also have a network of opticians. There is an administrative and financial advantage with using them, but you can go anywhere.

MM: So why is the service better than say going to a high street chain?

Chadwick:  “With the High Street, you have to ask is the service about getting you to buy a pair of glasses or about managing and monitoring your long term eye health. The typical chain of opticians spends less time on the test. You are better going to an independent optometrist. They are less interested in speeding you through.

“By the time you have your lenses you are looking at £400. That is a barrier to an individual. This solution overcomes that. There is no excess or overpay. There are no barriers to using the product. It sits in the dispensing optician’s office. They have access to our platform. If you stay under the benefit limit, you don’t have to pay anything.”

MM: Why is it better than other healthcare cash plans that may be offered by an employer as part of menu of benefits?

Chadwick: “Compared with cash plans, there is no excess or co-pay. This is a focused benefit and we find people use single benefits. It is not 24 things with aromatherapy included. There is up to £400 of spending power. A cash plan may have £30 of optical benefit, say for VDU but it is not a full solution. With a cash plan sometimes dental and optical are bundled together, you do get an optical benefit but it may be used up on dentistry.”

MM: So what is the grand plan?

Chadwick: “We have 46,000 corporate clients globally. Most of the Fortune 500 firms are clients. It gives us a massive global footprint. The firm insures one in five employees in US. We want to do the same in the UK.”

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