It is inevitable that successful private practitioners will prosper as they join in empowering alignment groups. Optometry has weathered change before and will continue to do so.
The pattern of success is clear, doctors of all types have and will continue to form large groups such as current hospital based medical groups or large loose networks with financial commitments binding its players.
A surprise to many is the growing realization that Optometry will grow through its medical services and optical services will play a smaller but essential role. This is clear as you view the market place and see how the Optical Commodity is deflating even as medical fees begin to grow from the bottom they have reached. EyeMed has been selling their optical goods through a medical plan for years, BCBS. They get in the door with medical and “toss” in the “free” optical plan to gain membership. It has worked for quite a while but is now may become and issue because Pearle, Sears and Lenscrafters are branded as “eyeglass stores” and others cannot seriously deliver medical.
Optometry on the other hand, when organized, such as by Vision Care Direct, can do both; especially a the optical side vertically integrates and becomes more competitive. An organized network of professional optometry can and will sell medical contacts and service structured as the primary entry for medical eyecare as well as the early diagnosis of systemic disease. Vision Source has considered this model in its attempts to expand accross the USA. VS has also cleverly attempted to create a “franchise” like brand name. They did this to identify the high quality of care they provide unlike the bottom of the barrel scavengers like Stanton Optical and others who advertise their low, low prices (just as the long dead Gimbels department store did).
A vision of the future of eye care will be created when eye doctors and businessmen come together to support each other. The goal will be supporting each other rather than taking advantage of their association as has happened with Davis, VSP and Eyemed. The one who does this will take all, at this open casino of eyecare players.
Here is The WHY that everyone is is beginning to comprehend. Medical optometry will happen because MOTIVATED optometry doctors will make the connection with medical leadership and in the medical community and form the networks that will work with Opthalmology. Medicine will want Optometry as OMDS profit best by providing tertiary care while Optometry, because we see patients age 18 -40 for blurred vision (myopia) have access the the patient ACO’s need for preventive care. In essence professional optometry attracts the age groups that think they are invulnerable 18-40, who are really most at risk for diabetes, hbp and soon to come heart attacks.
Networks of corporate eyewear discounters that beat optometry into the financial ground will not find motivated optometrist to work with them. They will have to pay professionals to go out and try to sell their Optical Stores as medical entry points. The sale will be hard and the cost high. On the other hand motivated optometric networks, through which OD’s profit by their own effort, will stimulate all its members to work for their own profit! Their own profit is ensured by being part of the network because that is what empowers them to work withe medical groups. In other words, instead of viewing their colleagues as competitors, they will know that their colleagues are their empowerment. No other model motivates its doctors to do this!
I believe the future will go to the teamwork of Optometry networks who give up on trying to be group buying groups but form financial alliances, with excellent ones, for financial resources. Optometrists who can practice independently (as much as we do now) but work under a branded banner of quality care that can be marketed as a Unified Named Entity (As Vision Care Direct, Vision Source And EyeMed are trying to do now) will prosper. Optometry will need to be able to set its fees but be competitive. Optometry will need to prosper from material sales but be vertically integrated like EyeMed to do so. This will require vertical integration. Optometry will need to financially reward its local doctors for sales contracts and it must get out of the business of trying to be everything. It is too demanding being a good doctor and run a practice. With this partnership of businessmen and doctor’s networks, forged on the mutual respect, that VSP has lost and EyeMed never had, Optometry will prosper.