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The Opportunities to Integrate AI into your Practice.

The incorporation of AI in optometry will transform the way we diagnose and provide care to patients. There are opportunities within optometry to leverage AI, utilizing the data from imaging systems and electronic health record (EHR) data. Here are several advantages illustrating how AI can positively influence both patients and the industry.

Integrating AI into remote eye examinations offers the potential to enhance precision in refractions and detect eye diseases at early stages using data from telemedicine assessments. Telemedicine eye exams has not only expanded access to care for patients in rural America but have also addressed the shortage of optometry practitioners in various areas. Additionally, the growing preference among optometrists for remote jobs suggests that the opportunities for leveraging AI in this context will likely continue to expand. AI will provide efficient screening, and diagnostic testing and improve imaging analysis.

With the advancements in analyzing big data, we can anticipate earlier detection of eye diseases and a thorough analysis of the prevalence of advancing conditions. This capability will enable the development of more personalized treatment plans. From a business perspective in optometry, these innovations allow us to confidently see a higher volume of patients each day, facilitating a smoother diagnosis and streamlining the process of referrals for treatment plans.

Imagine the world of Eye Care where AI solutions streamline the approval of prior authorizations, assisting with uncovering KPIs in your practice to make it more profitable and schedule appointments for patients to contribute to a more lean and efficient practice.

Impact with purpose. Envision assisting visually impaired individuals with new AI solutions, delivering care to underdeveloped countries from your living room, and changing the lives of patients with tools that we never had before!

Rising Above the Competition: Stop Competing Down.

Your journey to personal development starts with a desire to do a little better each day. Your best potential self is achievable if you seek improvement. We can’t get comfortable with your achievements, we need to face some resilience in order to continue to excel. Having a target goal of where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years and 20 years can provide a clear vision, helping you visualize and plan the direction you aspire to take. Once you know where you want to be, find a business or person that is there, do you have the ability to compete with them at that level? If not it is time to get to work! It has been said that if you are the smartest person in the room you in the wrong room.

Challenging oneself to competing with strong opponents like well established medical professionals or even large corporations can be viewed as “competing up”. Many times I will see individuals” competing down” to secure easy victories in business. Individuals that continue to do so throughout their careers will never find their true potential and have a successful businesses. When competing down to secure success, the underlying cause might be a perceived shortcut to quick gains or a strategy to minimize challenges. It’s essential to carefully evaluate such decisions, considering the long-term consequences that inhibit growth. Competing up often fosters growth, innovation, and resilience in the face of challenges. Once you start competing up you get confidence. Confidence to know you belong at the table. Once you finally get there it is easy to know you have the potential and you have been “training” all along for it.

Competing UP is not for everyone. It is a certain mindset. It is a growth mindset. Do I have the potential to be bigger and better than big players in your category? Embarking on a business journey has inevitable ups and downs. Learning from the early stages of your career and embracing the challenge of competing at higher levels not only cultivates resilience but also compels continuous improvement and overall growth.

Preparation is important. You are training to see how you can handle the pressure. Can you handle working 60+ hours a week, having uncomfortable conversations, dealing with fear tactics and walking alone in business? These are things that you learn by competing up. When you compete up, you will know if you are cut out to be the next CEO or business leader. Are you ready to finally Level UP!?

5 Qualities You Need to Be a Successful Optopreneur

Have you been thinking about starting your own optometry business? Building a business from the ground up and running it successfully is no easy feat. As is with every type of industry these days, the competition is intense.

But no obstacle is too big to deter a true entrepreneur from his or her chosen path. You may already have an entrepreneurial spirit. But even if you don’t, it’s possible to develop the qualities of a successful entrepreneur with practice.

1. Do What Others Won’t

Coming up with an idea and sticking with it is the most definitive trait of an entrepreneur. A successful entrepreneur goes with what clicks their mind rather than blindly following other’s opinions and acting on someone’s ideas. You shouldn’t waste your time and energy overthinking matters to the point that taking even the first step becomes too much of a task.

What you need to do is collect your thoughts in a way that allows you to come up with a productive plan for implementing your idea.

2. Say Yes to all opportunities

Being an entrepreneur demands being confident and believing in your skills and abilities. Having confidence in yourself gives you the strength to deal with the hardships that may come up in your way from time to time. True entrepreneurs readily accept every opportunity that comes their way because ‘no’ is not an option for them.

You must learn to be self-sufficient and self-reliant as well.

3. Don’t Let Anyone Put You Down

Entrepreneurs are met with all kinds of opinions and advice, including the helpful as well as the not-so-helpful one. Your friends and family members can particularly have a strong influence on how you perceive the feasibility of your plan. Listen to people who genuinely support you. And meanwhile, ignore and isolate yourself from the environment where you feel negativity towards your business. People may talk you into stay in your comfort zone and avoiding going into unchartered waters. As a true entrepreneur, remember to stay firm on your beliefs and not let anyone put you or your ideas down.

4. Stay Strong and Positive

You have to be fearless to be successful. If you don’t succeed at first, keep trying until you do. Remember that failure is not defined by incurring few losses but only when you stop struggling to achieve the goal that you initially set for yourself. Your so-called mistakes are actually a learning opportunity as they can teach you a lot about where to start from and what not to do the second time. Entrepreneurs stay focused on their goals and never give up as they know that great things happen by doing hard work.

5. Stand Up for What You Believe

When entrepreneurs introduce an idea or launch a startup, there’s always a chance that someone or the other will oppose them. A smart entrepreneur respects the freedom of speech but at the same time knows how to stand up and defend his or her ideas. It’s good to learn the art of how to disagree without being disrespectful to others, while maintaining one’s dignity at the same time.

Reflect on your work attitude and aptitude. You may already have the qualities of a successful entrepreneur but might not have realized it yet. If you can master these skills as an optometrist, rest assured that the world is your oyster.

A Bright Opportunity for Growth

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Citations
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2. Lemp MA et al. (2012) Cornea May;31(5):472-8.
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5. Arita et al. (2019) Ocul Surf 17(1):308-13.
6. Gao et al. (2019) Int J Ophthalmol 12(11):1708-1713.
7. Liu et al. (2017) Am J Ophthalmol 183:81-90.

5 Tips for Improving Your Optometry Practice’s Reputation

Enhancing your optometry practice’s reputation is vital for attracting new patients and retaining old ones. Outbreak of a pandemic has changed the way optometry is practiced.

It is now more cost-effective and rewarding to invest in digital marketing techniques for building your brand image. Here are top 5 tips to establish your optometry practice as a reliable contender in the market.

1.    Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your online presence by improving the quantity and quality of your website traffic. Optimizing your website increases its visibility by helping it rank higher on the search engines results page.

In this day and age, people increasingly use the internet to search for different products and services. Build an efficient website so that people looking for optometry services are able to find it easily. When you have a website that appears higher on the search engine results page, potential customers are automatically going to perceive your practice as a reliable one.

2.    Content Marketing

Producing engaging content is imperative in attracting more potential clients to your optometry practice. Text, info graphics, and videos are all examples of content you can upload to your website.

Blogs are an effective way to market your business. Share engaging and informative content to bring more web users to your website. Upload blogs regarding optometry or related topics to show that you possess sound knowledge regarding your profession.

3.    Ask for Customer Reviews

Get patients to review your practice so that you can display them on your website. Include a link on your website where customers can type in their review.

You can choose quotes from customer reviews and place them throughout your website to improve your optometry practice’s reputation. Reading about positive experiences will encourage people visiting your website to sign up for your products and services.

4.    Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Opt for pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements to get your business noticed when people search for optometry practices online. These ads usually appear at the top of the search engine results page along with organic results, or appear on the sides of search engines.

PPC works like buying visits to your website. You will be charged a small fee every time a web user clicks on your ad. These ad campaigns can be easily targeted towards a local audience to help raise awareness about your practice in your locality.

5.    Email Marketing

Email marketing is the oldest yet one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. When patients sign up with your practice, encourage them to share their email addresses.

Email patients to remind them about their annual exam, and send them follow-up emails if they don’t make an appointment. You can also email newsletters with informational content to engage clients. Email marketing is also an effective way of informing prospective patients about any new offers or discounts that you introduce.

Other than adopting online marketing techniques, you can enhance your optometry practice’s reputation in a number of small ways. Readily offer a refund when a customer is unhappy or lease additional space nearby to help patients park their cars close to your practice. A solid brand image will draw in more patients and encourage older ones to revisit.

Using the Business Model Canvas for Optometry Practices

The Business Model Canvas is a strategic tool used by businesses to visualize, design, and develop their business model. In 2005, a Swiss business theorist Alexander Osterwalder proposed a simple and straightforward technique for drafting a business plan. Called the ‘business model canvas,’ the concept was formalized in his book, Business Model Generation, published in 2010.  

What is the Canvas?

The business model canvas is a one-page planning tool. It consists of nine boxes, each representing one of the core elements of a business.

Optometrists can use the business model canvas as a sheet for brainstorming new ideas for their practice.

The Nine Components

The nine elements of the business model canvas are as follows:

  1. Customer segments – Define your target audience. Who are your most important customers? What are they attracts these customers to your office?
  2. Value propositions – What problem are you solving for your customer? Your unique solutions or the ‘value’ you hope to deliver to the customer segments.
  3. Communication channels – The different modes of communication to interact with your customers.
  4. Customer relationships – How strong is your relationships with your customers?
  5. Revenue streams – The different sources of income for your practice. Does your company have multiple methods of generating revenue? What is the pricing strategy for the products and how do you offer customers to pay for products?
  6. Key resources – these are the main assets and other supplies you require in order to fulfill your value propositions.
  7. Key activities – What specific key activities are necessary to deliver your value proposition? What differentiates you from others? What services do you provide?
  8. Key partnerships –Identify your company’s key partners. This can consist of important suppliers? What resources and duties does the company receive from these partners?
  9. Cost structure – What are major drivers of cost? Fixed vs variable.

Here is a sample of a Business Model Canvas.

ODs want Executives in Optical Stores.

In recent news,  Starbucks’ new CEO Laxman Narasimhan says he plans to work once a month in one of the company’s stores in an effort to stay close to its culture and customers. He claims that it will help him understand the business by immersing himself in every part of the business.  Many times CEO’s are out of touch on what is going on at the store levels, this includes the optical industry.  As a leader in the organization, they come up with a strategic plan and make decisions on what might be best direction for the company for that time. Hindsight is always 20/20! Many optical leaders are result driven and are nearsighted about decisions that might bring positive numbers now but bigger losses in the future.

Recently, I posted a poll in the Corporate Optometry Facebook group and  I asked,

“Do you think that Executives in Optical should work in stores on a regular basis?”

66% of  Corporate ODs stated YES, they think that upper management should work in the stores. This would provide  realistic expectations on goals created and help upper management understand the customer experience, and employee work culture. Working with the OD on that side of the business would help gain awareness on struggles that ODs face on a daily basis. Working the hours of operations that many do til 7pm or 8pm and weekends, to immerse themselves in this burnout culture that has been created to meet goals.  Eye Care Directors should spend a day leading by example seeing 4 or more patients an hour or doing telemed exams. Having them illustrate policies and procedures that have been created as sales tactics and marketing materials that are out dated.  Getting to know employees and ODs at a personal level will create employee engagement, satisfaction and reduce turnover.

The most alarming stat from the survey was that 28% of the responses stated that they didn’t think the executives could handle working in the stores.  This illustrates that many don’t have confidence in leadership competence, and that expectations are unrealistic. Leadership is so far removed from the ground truth.  

Exercising this idea as an active “role playing” in an organization. This type of leadership can be viewed as servant leadership. This style is based on leaders serving the greater good of the team and organization, than personal growth. With time, it would create new culture in companies and cultivate new ideas for programs to improve customer service, building trust, employee engagement and satisfaction. Image the change our industry could have and evolve if executives rolled up their sleeves and experienced the daily struggles that staff and ODs have!

How to Talk About Payment Options With Your Patients

Financial management is key in running an optometry practice successfully. Talk about payment options with patients in an effective manner to increase the likelihood of payment, and improve client-provider relationship.

If you feel too shy to discuss payment, tell yourself that you are running a business and deserve to be paid. Here are 3 basic guidelines to keep your patients well-informed about their financial responsibility.

1.      Be Transparent

Rule number 1 is to be open about the financial responsibilities of your patients from the beginning. Let them know about the procedures, costs, and payment options in advance.

Even if the cost of a particular treatment at your optometry practice is relatively high, do not hesitate to start discussing it with your patients. In fact, patients prefer you being open with them.

Talk to them about aspects that are covered and not covered by their insurance plans, so that they can allocate a budget accordingly. Also make sure you inform them about all payment options and the time when payment is due.

2.      Educate Your Staff

You can educate your staff regarding basic billing, so that they are able to talk about payment options with patients. Your employees should be able to effectively inform them about treatment costs at your optometry practice.

Make sure your clinical staff is aware of examination and treatment costs that may not be covered by insurance, so that they can alert patients accordingly. You can also provide scripts to your employees to help them talk about costs with patients in the right way.

Before the patient meets you, your staff members can give them a briefing about the procedures and their costs. If a certain procedure is not coverable by insurance, a staff member can guide them with signing a statement of financial responsibility. Train your employees to not hesitate and ask for payment in a firm yet diplomatic manner.

However, in certain scenarios, it is difficult for a staff member to brief the patients. For instance, while you are examining a patient, you may feel that a certain procedure needs to be performed. In that case, you can call someone from the billing staff to come back and explain the extra fee to the patient. Alternatively, you can opt for providing a more personalized experience by informing the patient yourself.

3.      Choose the Right Medium

Make sure you communicate the costs of your services or treatments in a simple and convenient manner. Phone calls and emails are conventional and reliable options, but with an expansion in digital communication, several more ways are now available.

According to a survey conducted by Truecaller, 64% of the adults admitted that they do not answer phone calls from an unknown number. Sending text messages is a quick way to let patients know the costs and payment options. Patients can easily read messages and follow a link to make the payment through their mobile phones, tablets, smartwatches, or other devices.

Making payment easy and quick for patients will improve your cashflow and increase response rates. Keep payment options flexible for patients, as some may still prefer a paper bill.

You can also use online options to inform patients about finances. It is a good idea to have a web page within your website or a tab on your Facebook page devoted to financial responsibility, payment plans, and insurance.

Discussing finances may initially make you feel uncomfortable. However, with the right strategies, you can conveniently and politely talk about payment options with patients. Make sure your staff also understands the importance of keeping patients updated.

Top 5 Predictions for Optometry

Eye care will always have a demand as people will continue to require vision correction, eye disease treatment, and optical products and services. Developments in the field of optometry along with shifts in consumer demand is likely to bring forth several changes in the industry.

Predictions are not guaranteed outcomes, but they are nevertheless formed after careful analysis of current trends. Here are top 5 predictions for optometry.

1.      Increase in Specialty Care

The field of optometry is predicted to turn more specialized in future. Optometrists focusing on different conditions such as myopia management, dry eye care, and concussion therapy are likely to expand their practices.

A rise in specialty care may divert patients away from general optometry clinics that provide basic services such as refractive care and basic medical eye care. Prepare for this shift by building your expertise in a specific field to reap benefits in the future.

2.      Surge in Myopia

Myopia, or short sightedness, is expected to increase substantially in the coming days. The importance of eye exams will rise as vision health will become a mounting concern.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.2 billion people suffer from a vision impairment or blindness. The reason stated for this upsurge is lack of eye care for conditions like short and far sightedness, cataract, and glaucoma. Optometry is expected to merge with mainstream medicine as myopia and other eye conditions become more common.

3.      Rise of the Information Technology and Artificial Intelligence

Technology is expected to have a major role in optometry in the near future. Digitization will reduce paperwork and manage data more efficiently. Optometrists are likely to invest in computer systems that capture, handle, and exchange information in quickly and smoothly.

Processes requiring artificial intelligence (AI), such as imaging, have provided optometrists with a deeper understanding of eye disease. In 2017, a software was invented to track glaucoma progression, which led to improved treatment of glaucoma patients. Optometrists will need to adopt and accept AI for the profession of optometry to evolve.

4.      Managed Care Companies

According to predictions for optometry, the managed care companies are projected to increase while solo practitioners are predicted to slowly decrease. Managed Care compares that have started to own their own optical shops as brick and mortar and online shops. The number of optometrists practicing in one premises will reduce overhead, increase hours of operation and broaden the ability to specialize.

There is likely to be a trend for managed care companies such as VSP to take over practices. Managed care demands stronger networks to perform efficiently. Optometrists may choose to collaborate with fellow optometrists (horizontal integration) or with ophthalmologists (vertical integration).

5.      Focus on Primary Eye Care will narrow

The focus of optometry practices will narrow and they are likely to only serve as primary eye care providers. Optometry doctors will no longer be engaged in routine vision correction, such as standard contact lenses.

Optometrists are expected to conduct eye examination, fit contact lenses, and provide eye care for contact lens patients. According to predictions, patients will probably use a special form of credit card validated by the optometry doctor for a 6 month to 1 year supply to buy lenses from a vending machine or dispenser.

Like every other profession, optometry is also set to evolve with time. Predictions for optometry indicate that the products and services provided by optometrists are likely to become more specialized while the internet and artificial intelligence is set to improve workflow. We will start to see more ODs expand via medical optometry and increasing scope of practice will help optometry as optical sales will not be major source of income.

5 Essential Business Planning Tips That Can Help Optometrists Survive a Recession.

Various small businesses could be severely hit by a recession. Proper planning is the key to long-term business success. And it becomes all the more important in the face of uncertain circumstances such as the ones we are facing currently.

Here are five essential business planning tips that every optometrist must follow if they wish to power through a recession and ensure sustained growth in the coming year.

1. Think Strategically

There are several strategic approaches that optometrists can benefit from. Strategic thinking is what helps you succeed in a competitive market. Businesses that don’t have a strategic plan in place are bound to have a hard time in fulfilling their short term as well as long term goals.

Take time to think about your business’s vision and mission. What is your unique selling proposition? How do your products and services differ from those of your competitors? Do you do any specialty care?

Focus on aspects that will prompt customers to choose your services over the alternative options.

2. Don’t Skip Marketing

Your revenues may be down these days, but that’s no reason to skip marketing. Marketing plays a key role in keeping your business in the public eye. You can cut down on the marketing budget if you want. But don’t forgo it altogether.

Identify the channels that can bring in the maximum customers and run your marketing campaigns on those platforms only. Staying active on social media is a great way to connect with your audience, so don’t forget to leverage that.

3. Form Alliances

One of the most strategic business planning tips in today’s economy is to form alliances. Collaborating with other optometry businesses operating both locally and other medical professionals can help you gain access to new streams of income. It can enable you to identify and exploit opportunities that still exist in an otherwise halted economy.

4. Sort Out Your Finances

Finances are the core element that determine the viability of your business plan. Make sure that you always have sufficient capital at hand for debt servicing, asset acquisition, business expansion, and the likes.

In addition to the current expenses, think about other costs you may incur down the lane.

5. Structure Your Workforce

You need to think about the future implications on your business in regards to your staff.

Will those employees be willing to rejoin when your business gains momentum again if you cut their hours? Do you want them to rejoin or wish to hire new workers instead? What are the skills you will need to keep your business running in a changing economy?

If you plan to hire new employees, make sure you have capital available for any training that may be required.

End Note

No one plans to fail; they fail to plan. So, follow these business planning tips to help your optometry business not just survive, but thrive regardless of how the economy may be performing.