Pros and Cons of Corporate Optometry on the Industry

Corporate optometry has expanded greatly over the years.  It is currently estimated to make up about 30% of the industry and will continue to grow as young optometrists make the decision to go into this sector.  With this expansion come both benefits and costs to the industry, which we will discuss below.

Pros:

1. Employment opportunities for ODs

Corporate optometry creates opportunities and jobs for optometrists looking for employment.  In addition, it is a great option for optometrists who don’t have a lot of experience as business owners and are looking for a turnkey model. ODs don’t have to wait for another OD to retire to become a business owner. Many Corporate ODs have had the ability to have multiple subleases which has been beneficial for those ODs. The ability to open practices in locations where there are not many other optometry practice can help ODs have more opportunities and provide more access to patients seeking other alternatives.

2. Increased pay rate and benefits

Corporate optometry can provide higher starting salaries and pay rates than average along with better benefits for some ODs.  The days and hours an optometrist works likely will affect the rate in which the optometrist is paid; for example, optometrists are sometimes paid higher by corporate opticals on Sundays.  In addition, corporate optometry offers generous bonus structures.

3. Loan repayments

Some corporate opticals will offer loan repayments to young ODs who are burdened by student debt.  This is great incentive for young ODs to start a career in corporate optometry. Most often, corporate opticals will offer loan repayments when trying to recruit ODs to more remote locations where it is difficult to find doctors in order to spark greater interest in new ODs.

4. Innovation and Competition

Corporate optometry has revolutionized the customer and shopping experience in the industry; for example, the one-hour eye glass service has completely changed the customer’s eye care experience.  The innovation of corporate opticals to better cater to their customers leads to competition and helps to keep practices top-notch. New ideas created within corporate optometry therefore bring the industry forward.

5. Global impact

Corporate optometry has allowed the industry to have a greater impact globally.  Many corporate opticals work with charities to use their business for the greater good; for example, Warby Parker’s “buy a pair, give a pair” program is a system in which, for every pair of glasses purchased, a pair is given to someone in need, and many corporate opticals supply underprivileged companies with glasses and eye exams.  In addition, Luxottica provides onesight global clinics to provide eye care for people in underdeveloped countries.

Cons

1. Exclusions from insurance panels

Being with a specific corporate optical can exclude doctors from certain insurance panels; for example, Walmart doctors are unable to take EyeMed.  Because of this, a doctor may have to turn away some patients. In addition, closed panels can funnel patients into a certain corporate optical, which can be a disadvantage for other practices in terms of creating a patient base and providing continuation of care to your patients as their benefits change year to year.

2. Vertical integration

Corporate opticals may have ownership over a variety of stages of production and may sell their own products, frames, lenses, etc., which can result in a reduced price for their customers.  This creates a disadvantage to private practices or other corporate opticals that can’t compete at a severe discount. In addition, the possibility of pushing a company’s own products rather than alternative products might not always have the best outcome for the consumer in the long run.

3. Exam Fees that haven’t changed with Inflation.

Providing affordable care to patients is essential. Many corporate opticals have offered affordable eye care services and products for many patients, yet with inflation and changes in scope of optometry exam fees have remained stagnate. Free eye exams have impacted the industry as well.

4. Consolidation

As more companies merge together, only a few large players in the industry are created, making it difficult for smaller practices to have a voice.  In addition, consolidation of companies limits the customer’s options when it comes to eye care. Consolidation needs to happen though if companies want to compete with online retailers and how customers want low prices with fast service.

5. Movements

Corporate opticals are more easily able to create big movements or waves of change in the industry compared to smaller practices. Global changes can be made. Many corporate opticals operate globally and many times movements that may work in another country might not be best in the USA.  While these movements are created in the corporation’s best interest, they may not necessarily be in the patients’ or the industry’s best interest as a whole. Among these movements have been an increase in managed care plans, telemedicine and an expansion in private equity.

In conclusion, there are both pros and cons of corporate optometry on the industry that should be considered.  Whether working under a corporate optical or not, doctors have the ability to be a voice for other ODs and for their patients to make positive changes in the industry and create a better future. 

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