Optical’s Illusion: The Future of Retail & Medical Eye Care

Ali Khoshnevis, OD FAAO

The eye care industry is currently focused on retail and the optical as the primary drivers of growth. Key players in the market leverage their manufacturing, and supply chain prowess in a race to the bottom. As more and more industry players commoditize glasses, retail becomes a more difficult space for IOD’s to operate.

Growth in the eye care industry has been relatively stagnant over the past few years. As new challenges occur, maintaining market share becomes difficult operating under the status quo.

Retail sales of the vision care market in the United States from 2013 to 2016
(in million U.S. dollars) ©Statista 2018

The curious thing is that our current environment is changing. Outcomes are being favored over procedures. The rise of consumer facing technology means that we no longer sell products, but brand experiences. We are seeing a shift from product centric companies to consumer centric ones. This shift is representative of a new consumer, one that is more connected with other consumers, one empowered by the digital movement, and one that demands a dialogue with your brand.

Healthcare in America is not immune to this shift.

The Affordable Care Act simply put, is a change in policy that is merely reflective of this consumer centric sentiment.

Now consumers have a say and a clear way of choosing their insurance company. More physicians and ancillary healthcare professionals (physician assistants and nurse practitioners) are graduating now then ever before. CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens are getting into the healthcare game because they believe that they can beat private practices, hospitals, and urgent care facilities in the game of “give the consumer what they want” – open after work hours, cheaper services, and convenient locations.

Eye care will change dramatically over the next few years. There will be a clear bifurcation in the practice of optometry. Retail based clinics versus medical clinics; there will no longer be blurred lines between these two practice modalities. This has nothing to do with the standard of care being offered in each modality but rather what the office wants to focus on. One thing is certain either way, you must become patient centric to stay relevant.

To stay relevant in this new age of healthcare, your company or facility will need to adopt the following:

Patient Experience Representatives
There must be someone fighting on behalf of the patient, regardless if it may seem counter intuitive to the bottom line. Myopic thinking will destroy your brand, whereas goodwill is what is expected by patients and will yield results in the long run.

An Omni-Channel Approach
Patients want contact with their providers. Be willing to speak with patients over all media channels, not just within the four walls of your office. One Medical (which has received a lot of money from Google because they get it) provides every patient with an app where they can contact their offices, video chat with a doctor, or simply write their doctor an email. Their motto: “Not Your Typical Doctor’s Office”.

Quality over Quantity
Healthcare policy will drive this with a fee for outcome versus fee for service model, consequently working smarter not working harder will be important.

Personalized Healthcare
Make every single patient visit unique. You may wonder how this is possible. It’s simple. Gather more information about your patients before the office visits. Also collecting triage results over the phone or online can be a very intelligent way to create a very personalized experience in the office. You can create an efficient and very targeted experience for the patient before they ever walk into your doors. Technology, such as a patient engagement solution like RevConnect and an online patient portal can help support this initiative.

Learn How to Streamline Your Patient Communication with RevConnect

Be Transparent
Is price the driver? Is quality more important? A recent study by Customers 2020 states that by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the brand differentiator. So if you cost more but you have a much better track record, be open and proud of it. What patients care about is authenticity and if you are hiding something, it doesn’t sit well with them.

There are two very powerful forces shaping the future of healthcare, consumers from the bottom up and the federal government from the top down. Regardless of how you change, business as usual is not a viable option.

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