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Understanding the Different Models of Corporate Optometry

Whether you’re a recent graduate with big plans or you’ve just left a job to start up your own corporate optometry sublease, it’s important to remember that the industry you’re trying to enter is well-established and competitive. There are some basic concepts you need to clear up before you go about setting up your own optometry practice.

Understanding the Market

Based on where you are in the country, you need to have a strong understanding of the number of optometry patients in the area, the projected number of patients down the line and the modern practices of optometry (including information of technological advancements in the industry). Get information on how many other corporate opticals there are in the area.

Select the Right Business Model

Based on your financial standing, potential employees and expertise, you can choose from a list of different business models:

Franchise

Franchising will help you cross the phase where you’re still trying to establish a brand name. Setting up a well-reputed franchise will help you bring in customers who trust the name. This is useful to have optical merchandising, marketing, frame lines set up for you. Some examples are Pearle Vision, MyEyeLab and Cohens Fashion Optical. Many franchise fees are minimal but include discounts on equipment and frames and the company provides marketing for your location.

Sublease

Subleasing will provide you with the same benefits and disadvantages as those of a franchise. The difference will be the startup cost you’ll need. For a franchise, you need a higher budget. Sublease is turn key with the equipment and office set up. The OD would go in set up their own business adjacent to the optical. Many companies will sublease space in Lenscrafters, Target Optical, LC Macy, Walmart and For Eyes.

Independent Contractor/ Fill in

Independent Contractor is a great way to do part time work or fill in work while you work full time as an employee or sublease owner. Independent contractors enjoy the flexibility to practice what hours they agree upon and able to write off expenses and travel for that day of work. Corporate optometry has many great fill in opportunities and the benefits of fill in are more than just income.

Employed

Employed model in corporate optometry has many benefits that many ODs enjoy. There are no administrative tasks or excessive paperwork. You would simply go in and see your patients and do what you do best and that is being an OD.

Employed ODs enjoy paid time off, a competitive salary, bonuses, benefits package and much more. Many companies will have this option as permitted by state law. Many times ODs will be employed by the sublease owner. Some companies in corporate optometry that employ ODs are Warby Parker, National Vision, Luxottica and Stanton Optical.

CREATING A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE IN CORPORATE OPTOMETRY

Creating a Memorable experience in Corporate Optometry.

When you think of  memorable experiences you think of positive times filled with joy and laughter. It could be a game winning shot, a vacation, childhood memory of your parents or even just enjoying a loved ones company as laughter fills the room.  You tend to remember the times that you felt something. Creating a memorable patient experience is no different! The way a patient “feels” about the experience will reflect directly to your bottom line. People will generally really love something or not like it and there is no room for in between or being average in today’s competitive market.  Creating a memorable experience involves everyone through the patient journey. Think of a patient experience as a journey, it is not a single appointment or transaction but a journey that can evolve over the next 20-30 years as they continue to see you and refer others to your office.   Here are some ways to make a memorable patient experience:

1. Active Listening

Active Listening is paying attention to the patient from the moment they call for an appointment. Train your staff to take notes during the initial touch point. If a patient is calling the office because of having a negative experience at another office, have the staff ask probing questions to understand what type of experience they are looking for. Once the patient is in your exam chair you have a “blueprint” of their expectations. You are able to address their pain points that guided them to your office.  Provide a personal approach by facing  them when they are talking and maintain eye contact. Many times patients will tell you want they want, it is your job as an eye care professional to recommend the best options and help guide them to best personalized solution. Active listening establishes  the patient/ doctor relationship and aligns an active approach to their health care. If they feel like their part of the decision process it will create a memorable experience that will make your office stand out from the rest.

2. Doctor Driven Dispensing

Whether you own your office or are an employee, doctor driven dispensing is a way to not only to create a memorable experience in the optical, but create patient loyalty through patient education of products. The clinical findings from the examination should be aligned with the eye wear lenses options that you recommend, to the specific artificial tears that you prescribed to that patient. It goes back to active listening. You are the authoritative voice and experienced professional of that office, “customize” and educate patients to why you are recommending a product and how it is different from online retailers. Maintain eye contact when discussing personalized eye care. Doctor driven dispensing is an art that is frequently ignored by many ODs. Asking different questions will create a “wow” experience for the patient, ” they never asked me those questions before, maybe I wasn’t getting the right exam or eye wear that I should have had before”

3.  Storytelling

Storytelling can be an influential connector to your patients because it is an emotional driver. Memorable moments are created by emotions. It makes the patient experience a human experience. Storytelling can be formulated from active listening to understanding what the patient likes to talk about and transitioning it to an assessment/plan strategy for that patient encounter.  Storytelling by itself can be a powerful way to be memorable. Be yourself. Being authentic will connect with people. Letting them know that your family member has a the same issues with  progressive lenses and what specific product you prescribed compared to an affordable option creates more value for your office than competing on price.

4. Marketing a memorable experience

Online retailers like Warby Parker will donate a pair of glasses. It creates a memorable experience for the patient because they know that their eyeglass purchase with help others in need. The promotion is “Since day one, over 4 million pairs of glasses have been distributed through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. Alleviating the problem of impaired vision is at the heart of what we do, and with your help, our impact continues to expand.” The key phrase is “The whole story begins with you“, it creates a memorable experience where the patient is involved in something for a bigger purpose. Whether is is a local charity event or mission trip your office can do the same. Use your email database and social media platforms to educate your patients about your involvement in the community and how they can be involved by donating old glasses or how you can do a promotion for free eye exams for those in need through your office.

 5. Follow up

The patient experience does not end at the end of the exam.  Making a follow up call to a patient can make a lasting impression. Whether is it a follow up on corneal abrasion or a call to see how their contacts are performing. This discussion has more impact than you think in making your business successful and developing the critical doctor/patient relationship. Following up 1 week, 1 month or 6 months will create a memorable experience, simply set reminders in your EMR system to have your staff follow up on progressive adaptation or simple satisfaction with service or products. Let your patients know that you remember specific personal information, document in your chart; job information and children’s names to have a starting point for your next exam.  Your EMR system can be a great way to follow up on reactivating patients by sending birthday texts/emails with special promotions.

6.Unique Style

Your unique style makes you memorable. Humor is a memorable factor. Don’t be afraid to have a different approach to patient care, humor will make you likeable and approachable to new patients. You want patients to feel comfortable, being funny is one way to do it. Everyone likes getting compliments and it will also make people feel comfortable to ask questions and enhance the doctor/patient experience.

Your personality, humor,empathy, attention to detail is your signature to the world. It speaks volumes, use it to create a memorable experience that no one can mimic because “you” is UNIQUE.

Making the Competition Irrelevant: Be the Game Changer

Business strategy is one of the most commonly used words by many in the business world yet its meaning hasn’t been properly stated or understood.
Business strategy is the concept of business which is concerned with the planning for the further success of the organization.   Optometry businesses fail to distinguish growth as an objective, and confuse it with being a strategy. When people say they wish to grow their business, they certainly mean that they want to increase income. A saturated industry, that has well established players, will require a different business strategy than a relatively new one. Your research of the industry will play a key role as it helps you uncover what is missing and what you can offer to obtain the desired market share and gain a competitive edge over others. If you look at history of businesses you will learn a tremendous amount of information about data trends, social response, business failures adaptation and innovation. An optometric business can thrive with the right motivation, mindset and perseverance even with increased competition with other retail opticals and online retailers. Be the game changer in your market. You don’t need to follow the others, create your own path of success. Why compete with an all ready highly competitive low margin marketplace? Develop your own unique strategy that innovates the industry.

The objectives that work towards the success of the optometry businesses are:

The growth of the business is a growth mindset 
This refers to the possibility of the optometry business to market well and the optometrists to gain more patients due to their growing reputation. Figure out a strategy to increase growth and continue to grow. An average practice should grow 2-3% a year. Evaluate your key performance indicators to scale your practice. Understanding how your practice compares to others would be a good benchmark for evaluating the business metrics of your practice. Having a growth mindset will see opportunities that others won’t and using failure as a motivation to learn and continue to work hard to push forward. Your growth mindset will create innovative ways to approach the challenges in the industry and identify what is lacking and pain points for your customers.

The competitive upper hand of the businessBe the Game Changer

This relates to the idea that despite there being other optometry firms in the industry, the business that is being worked on at the moment, flourishes much more than its competitors. Always respect your competitors. When your office has the competitive edge and you don’t respect your competitors or smaller businesses that is when you can be left behind. Blockbuster was number 1 at one point and didn’t see Netflix as a competitor. They even had a chance to buy them at the beginning but ignored it.   Your competition will have more income or resources but having the drive, motivation, and perseverance to continue to pursue what you want is the ultimate competitive upper hand. Many optometry offices can have a competitive edge with 3d printing eyewear, technology, value based services, personal brand and a unique localized social media strategy. Social Media is very powerful it brings influence to your target audience with reviews, blogs, videos and postings. Small businesses now have the ability to change a local market by creating fans instead of customers.  You determine what is your specific niche that you want your office to be known for and continue to relentlessly pursue it even when you are at the top!

Gaining higher profits
This is also linked to getting more customers; the more patients an optometry business has the higher its profits will be. You will get more customers by creating “fans” and providing niche value.
Be unique instead of being the best! A lot of the companies try to be the best when it comes to selling their product. They wish to have the best product, the best marketing campaign, and the best production line. They tend to believe that this is what’s needed to help them gain the largest customer market share. However, it is the exact opposite. In an industry where there are several companies that provide the same product, customers will find it difficult to choose between products of various available brands.
In such a scenario, there is a high chance that they choose the product with the lowest price. One way to overtake the competition is by investing to make your product unique. Either offer a feature that the other products do not have, or offer them in a more efficient manner, to distinguish your products from the rest.
This is called having a competitive advantage. A feature that sets you apart from your competitors. In the case of optometry, a business will have to design personalized service and quality that cannot be rivaled and sets a firm leaps and bounds above its competition. Increasing net profits can be achieved by vendor discounts, group pricing, cross trained staff, medical model technology and seeing more patients per hour.

Working with Competitors 

Reputation in optical industry is the key to success with working with competitors. The business owner that has integrity can easily work with others and will be successful. Take for example you are an OD with your own practice corporate or private can you work with the optician business owner see those patients and send them back for glasses? Building an alliance can increase your net profit. Providing that the optician could cut lenses cheaper than the lab, help out on vacation, use both businesses as leverage for equipment or other supplies , send patients that you can see medically and gain a great reputation in the area that opens doors for other opportunities.  Working with competitors in your local area can be a good way to use resources together that one office might not have and providing more added value to patients to with increase medical services and your office benefiting from the evaluation component of the procedure.  Working together to promote and progress optometry in general in your own state. This is not to be confused to be matching every move of your competitor but carving out areas that they are not focusing on.

Blue Ocean Strategy 

Blue Ocean strategy is about creating new untested waters, which has been a new way to think, compared to red oceans where the competition is fierce and can get bloody. Companies are making and shaping the industry with creative thinking.  Warby Parker had leveraged the industry to create its own competitive strategy. They broke out of the traditional eyeglasses and created their own market space that has become a billion dollar industry. They create a value innovation system with online services and products that were unique and low cost to the industry. They got out of the shark infested waters and into a clear blue ocean where they innovated to differentiate themselves on value, price and image , where in these clear waters there were less competitors. Consider to take a different path to social media where everyone is battling for Facebook/Instagram Ad space,  you might be on LinkedIn or Snapchat. Create an innovative approach where its easier to be profitable with less competitors. Some other companies that have done it are Netflix, Amazon, Starbucks and Uber.  Start a new process of thinking today!

 

“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.