Since VSP launched into the UK market just over a year ago, technology and health have become more aligned than ever. In my conversations with employers, it is becoming more apparent just how beneficial to the workplace good eye care and insurance can be and technological advances are improving this level of healthcare swiftly.
The smartphone was a huge step toward integrating so many aspects of our lifestyles into one convenient package, popularised by the iPhone in 2007. These communication and audio visual devices are firmly established now and so the race is on to be the first to take the next leap forward in the market.
Earlier this year Apple made a bid to plant its flag in a new arena of wearables with the Apple Watch, while the likes of Fitbit and Jawbone are already helping to monitor healthy living through technology. Form, as well as function, will be of utmost importance when it comes to adoption of wearable technology.
At VSP, we are especially concerned with and interested in advances in eyewear – we partnered with Google to provide our eyewear expertise for the Google Glass prototype, which finished Beta testing earlier this year. In our opinion the next generation of eyewear does look like it will enable a huge range of functionality that will have an impact, not just on lifestyle, but also on health.
Eyewear can be both a medical device and a fashion accessory that allows individuals a window into their personal wellbeing, because eyes are an indicator of overall health. The blood vessels in the eye can show early signs of chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. For example, diabetes can be seen in an eye exam up to seven years before it is detected through other means. High blood pressure is first detected by optometrists 39% of the time, and they are the first to detect high cholesterol 62% of the time.
We believe eyewear technology will develop to the point where it can allow real-time detection of these kinds of conditions. When a person is forewarned and armed with their personal health information, the ability for prevention and intervention increases.
This kind of technology could be integrated into a pair of optical frames with other applications that enable users to track stats like steps taken, calories burned, and distance travelled. Through that data, the wearer can choose whether they want to share that data with their doctor and start identifying trends and behaviours that could create a more proactive healthcare model. It all boils down to spotting potential problems with your personal health before it becomes an issue, identifying the causes, and being empowered to do something about it.
Jeremy Chadwick is managing director for VSP Vision Care EMEA