Access to a nearby optometrist is crucial for the eye health of adults older than 60, explains a new report out of Ireland. That might seem self-evident, but now a five-year study is showing how access to a vehicle and an optometrist within a short drive can impact how often this cohort appears in your chair.

“Geography influences health-seeking behavior for non-ocular conditions,” the study says. “Here, we demonstrate the importance of accessibility as well as availability for eye care uptake.”

The research looked at 294,870 adults (older than 60) and measured their drive times to the nearest optometric practice. The 23.7% of patients who had no access to a vehicle sought routine eye care services approximately 14% less often than their car-owning counterparts. Additionally, for those who did own a car, visits to the OD were hampered if the patient had far to drive. Those with drive times longer than 10 minutes were 7% less likely to attend, relative to those with drive times less than two minutes. The research indicates a particularly steep drop-off at the four-minute mark for both the car-owning and non-car-owning groups—although more so for the non-car-owning group.

“Our findings may be useful to both eye specialists and other healthcare professionals seeking to increase uptake of primary eye care,” the researchers explained in the report. “Directly increasing accessibility through travel subsidies or arranged transport would be more costly as would provision of mobile eye exam clinics.” 

Wright D, O'Reilly D, Azuara-Blanco A, et al. Impact of car transport availability and drive time on eye examination uptake among adults aged ≥60 years: a record linkage study. Br J Ophthalmol. July 3, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].