Can Eyecare Be Saved?

Many of you are involved in a few Facebook Forums. On two of the forums, Alan Glazier (OD’s on Facebook) and Scott Balestreri (Ask The Lab Guy) laid out a course of action for for Eyecare Professionals to advance the future of eyecare. Both are outspoken and passionate about the eyecare industry. Both are leaders in their own ways, both bring unique perspectives on how the eyecare business can be saved from what we know it today. Both posted a Top 10 List for 2016 on saving eycare. I thought most had a lot of merit and thus they gave me permission to repost and edit. If you want to see their full post, please visit their pages.

From ODs on Facebook: Alan Glazier named 2016 the year for “year for practice excellence

OD's on Facebook

(1) Create a policy where you drop one poorly performing vision insurance plan from your practice and repeat annually. To do this you should determine how much it costs you to see one of their patients including chair costs and how much you are paid. If it is isn’t profitable, that’s the one to drop first

(2) Focus on driving patients into your practice: We are guilty of ignoring marketing, yet it can be a powerful practice builder. I know from conversations I’ve had that many of you still depend on traditional marketing and word-of-mouth referrals. While word-of-mouth is important, much of it now occurs online. For example, 85% or more of people search online for the products and services you hope to be found for. If you’re not getting “word of mouth” referrals online you are leaving a ton of money on the table. Ramp up your social media and internet marketing efforts and get serious about them; if you do it right, the return on that investment will be staggering.

(3) In general, Optometrists are way too “loosey goosey” with their finances. If you ignore your finances, they will definitely not go away. Use the power of the internet and provide access to your books to a firm that can review your financials, make recommendations, raise red flags and basically oversee your practice finances at a high level. You should meet with these consultants every two weeks to review the important benchmarks and adjust strategy as needed. Set goals to reach.

(4) Work on Your Optical Strategy; Get rid of frame lines that are easily available online or owned by companies that directly compete with you. Do a “google” test – if you can find a frame in your optical on page one of Google when you search for it, get rid of it. Your patients can “showroom” you too easily and are doing just that. Support independent frame companies; the ones that support our community (Europa, ClearVision and Best Image Optical, Modern Optical and many others As frame companies that once supported us now support those at the head of the race to the bottom, consider shifting towards more high-end product that can’t be found online, at big box stores or at lesser competitors. You can Use GPN’s “Edge” or consulting so you can keep a close watch on optical sales performance, associate doctor performance and overall practice performance as well as managed care performance.

(5) Go “Medical”; Listen to the practices posting in “ODs on facebook” and ask questions on what they are doing to grow revenues practicing full scope medical model optometry. 50% of our revenues are from medical optometry NOT at the expense of our optical revenues and we practice in one of the 3 most restrictive states. I go bonkers when I think about what I could be doing in a state like Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia, Oregon or others with great scope laws. If your state could benefit from expanded scope – get active; support your state and national association in their efforts for scope expansion.

Let’s push forward this “social vision” for our profession. The steps outlined are not difficult to implement but you have to be willing to stir things up in your practice, push some buttons and execute. Let’s move the ball forward and create our future – not let others like VSP and EyeMed create it for us; a future where we all succeed together, a truly social vision, bring our profession back from the brink; use this group as a first step in making that happen.

Ask The Lab Guy

Scott Balestreri, is the owner of Bad Ass Optical Lab and admin of Ask The Lab Guy,. For those who don’t know Scott, he is an old style meticulous optician, frame designer, lab owner and retail store, instrumental in Project Homeless Connect and very outspoken member of the optical community. If you are a member of his forum, you probably look forward to his midnight musings. Over the last month he has put out some eye- provoking posts on how to deal with eyecare today. Here are his pearls: (Edited- you can see his full post on Facebook)

Steps to How Optometry- Opticianry

1.) Would it be possible for Eye doctors (all of them), to unite in one simple message? “A Refraction and an Eye Exam are two different things.” Is this a profession so challenged when communicating, it cannot communicate that one simple sentence to the public? How would the industry be hurt if all doctors, at chains, Walmarts, and in private practice, unite in telling that one simple story?

  • Eye health is not synonymous with refractive error. If every doctor donated 30$ to spreading the word with educational marketing, it would be a done deal. What if every doctor told every patient this? Now, what would happen if those patients repeated the message to a friend?

Readers should be signed off by an eye doctor who has done a full comprehensive exam, or explained the difference one time.  warning label on readers. “If you haven’t had an eye exam, this bandaid will not prevent blindness. Only your Eye doctor can do that.”

2.) Stop doing 5 minute eye exams with techs using automated machines doing the rest. When you do an exam in 5 minutes, you communicate your services are worth well? . 5 min exam = ?. 10 min Exam = Dr. Schlockers. A proper fundus exam can’t be done in 5 minutes. So quit your…., and get off your butt, and WORK. You will be amazed what quality, value, and seeing you putting forth real effort will get you in patient retention.

3.) Optometry is different from Ophthalmology in one pure respect: The knowledge and practice of refraction with binocular vision as a key factor. Why then am I having to explain BASIC prism at the lab so often? Try incorporating BV into your practice in more than just a “balanced Rx.” Develop vocabulary to explain it in layman’s terms to the patients who will benefit from special eyeglasses for their vocational and recreational use.  Good BV goes way beyond kids learning in school.  It can effect sports, concentration, work and all sorts of daily activities for adults. Good BV=Good Diversification.

4.) Maximize what you have been trained to do well, and do that. Know your limits, refer out the rest. If this makes you feel insecure or offended, see #10

5.) Hire a great Optician, an Optician that wants to learn, grow, and PRACTICE. Do they have experience? Do they like their job? Look for a great attitude, craftsmanship, knowledge, and willingness to learn. Frankly a good Optician has a lot to teach an OD.  One thing that comes to mind in some cases I have encountered, is how to be nice and behave in front of  a patient!  If you aren’t learning something from your Optician, what are you paying for?

6.) Internet glasses and getting your own online Rx will soon be legal. Are you ready for that? Change! In general selling what your competitor can’t is good for business (Lets start with QUALITY).

7.) Re-look at your lenses: When a customer pays you 350$ for something that is just as good as what Costco has for 120$, where do you think people will shop? Seeing is more than believing.  Trying a lens yourself is also the dumbest test to flunk a design. “If I wear a lens and like it better than my last pair, I know it’s good.”No you don’t.  You know it’s good for you.  You have no clue what it is for anyone else, till they try them on. I’m glad you can read in your 1.50 add, but a high myope over 60 may have a different opinion of your superstar lens. Same goes for only buying lenses based upon a discount.

8.) Have you considered VT, Specialty Contacts, Myopia control, Ortho K, or opening an ice cream bar in your practice? Differentiation means not copying someone else. the ice-cream bar is done 10 times over, so try selling toys.

Stop being so butt-hurt when people tell you the truth. Stop hiding behind being offended. The truth is profitable, your little bubble of wanting to feel good is not. Writing this did not make me feel good, but I know for a fact, if this list were even partially put into practice, a new golden age of Optometry would emerge, and it would be no surprise.  Go tell someone what they are getting from you today besides their Rx. Show them. Explain it. And, tell them to tell someone else.

Both Scott and Alan made excellent and valid points. I wonder what would happen if you dropped your lowest performing managed care plan? What would happen if you installed The Edge and made tracking your stats a part of your business? What would happen if you set a course of action to continually educate your staff members? What would happen if you and your optician traded jobs for a day? What would happen if you tried new lenses or a lab and discount wasn’t the only factor to consider?

What do you think, are these something to think about for 2016?