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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. 

“Alexa, How can Amazon Disrupt the Eye Care Industry?”

Amazon has come a long way since 1998 when it was simply an online book store. It has continued to innovate and challenge competitors to evolve and adapt or simply be left behind. Amazon Prime membership has 85 million members and e-commerce sales are more than triple compared to other competitors online. With the recent $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods and approval for pharmacy licenses could change the future of healthcare.  Amazon has the data, infrastructure and innovation to change the pharmacy industry and possibly the eye care industry as well. Here are some ways that Amazon could alter the industry.

 

Telemedicine

Amazon has the platform to develop a telemedicine app to connect customers to pharmacists and doctors. Browsing Amazon’s website and don’t know which contact lens solutions or artificial tears to pick? Simply click on the feature to talk to a virtual provider to help with your selection via the telemedicine app. The health care apps can be used to book doctor’s appointments and even pay for your visit. The app would be customer- centric and convenient and could synchronize with the Warby Parker’s refraction app to enable patients to get glasses.  Consider the information that the app could provide to patients with pre-exiting conditions and direct them to local Amazon location or other company partners.  The virtual doctor could review a health care product or condition that a patient is searching on the website to finalize the sale or prescribe a medication and be delivered by Amazon Prime Now service by an Uber driver.

 

Innovative Technology

 

Imagine using Echo to direct you to a virtual doctor that can answer your questions on over the counter products or prescribe a treatment plan without leaving the house? The system could potentially connect the patient via telemedicine to treat the patient and could pick up the medication at a Whole Foods pharmacy. Echo would be able to provide treatment plans with over the counter products.  A treatment plan could possibly come up on the amazon app and with 1 click put in the product in the cart or either delivered within 2 days to your home or picked up at a Whole Foods kiosk. Not only that, but it would offer great personalization. Amazon is known to produce options based on an individual shopper’s purchase history. Amazon consistently sends emails asking about reviews on their products which would only help them grow their online eye care industry. When pairing this with a patient’s medical history it might become easier for them to refer a patient more detailed eye-exams in-office if they deem them necessary to partnered brick and mortar locations.

Big companies and small businesses could use Echo as a personal assistant to streamline business processes and answer frequently asked questions. For example, it can provide an overview of daily schedule, outstanding balances as well as HR information to let corporate know when a Doctor takes a day off or is out sick and relate the info to daily sales goals. Sales data could be given by Alexa. Data on per hour production can be evaluated and compared to others in the region and industry to set strategic plans and company standards to improve sales and efficiency.  It can also order new supplies and report inventory levels.

 

“Vuzix Corp. will show off a pair of smart glasses that can talk to Amazon.com Inc.’s voice-activated digital assistant and display information to the wearer’s field of view”. This technology can help patients that need low vision devices. It can superimpose text messages and display information that the patient needs to see.

Vuzix Blade glasses  Source: Vuzix Corp.

 

Electronic medical records

Amazon has the potential and resources to build its own electronic medical records system, and they might be working on this as we speak. The medical records could be accessed through the Amazon app. If successful, patients would want to have their records from their doctors’ offices into one system where any health care provider could download pertinent medical history and other information.  Amazon would have access to the electronic records to be able to target patients for other health care services or products.

Amazon web services can pull data from current electronic medical records. If Amazon has access to medical records they can run algorithms to identify similarities and target potential patients with a Doctor onsite or video conference. Consider how this service could transform your business with sophisticated data mining abilities.  It can help strengthen the net profit, optical strategy and understand more about the patient demographics of that office. By having this data, it can provide data that researchers can use to find treatments for diseases or prevalence of getting a disease. It can audit your patient records to detect potential fraud. This feature could be utilized by insurance companies to detect fraud and retrieve unnecessary fees from providers and hospitals.

 

Amazon Business for EyeCare Professionals

Amazon Business started in 2015 and has become a 1-billion-dollar business. Through Amazon Business Eye Care professionals can purchase products at an affordable price and skip many vendors. Small equipment for the office through Amazon Business and even selection of frames at deep discounts for your optical. Need Tropicamide a new near point card or new CMS 1500 forms? Order it through Amazon Business for Eye Care Professionals. Use their service and become an affiliate by referring patient to get artificial tears and other over the counter products for eye care. For business owners to get products quickly another brick and mortar purchase might be in the future for Amazon, possibly  BJs Wholesale Club to be able to compete with Walmart at the store level and provide convenience to the business owner if a product is needed immediately and use the warehouses as storage for inventory. It would also add Gas Stations to its portfolio that requires a brick and mortar location.   According to Business Insider , there as been speculation that Amazon is interested in acquiring Target .

How would Amazon enter the Eye Care Industry?

Amazon could possibly purchase Warby Parker or 1800 Contacts. They both developed a strong online brands with great income potential and have the database that is required to incorporate Amazon’s innovative technology.  Warby Parker has a strong millennial following and growing. They both would have the infrastructure that Amazon would need to successfully enter the industry. Amazon’s presence into the eye care industry would likely increase the speed of online optical delivery or it can have an integrated system that combines online with  the Whole Foods store. Even without a purchase, Amazon has the ability to open optical locations in Whole Foods and expand services online.