Article Date: 5/1/2006

o.d. to o.d.
The Early Adopters Have All the Fun
Those optometrists who are late to adopt technology miss opportunities and find themselves playing catch-up.
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

I'm sure you've heard that optometrists, in general, are late adopters — late to adopt new technology, late to adopt new product and late to adopt new management philosophies.

The adoption curve

I recently had an opportunity to hear a bright young M.B.A. describe how innovation and new technology provide for significant opportunities for growth in any business. As he drew a horizontal line on a large flip-chart, he carefully described how in any industry with established or adopted technology, this flat line indicates the status quo.

At the end of this horizontal line he stopped his marker, holding it perfectly still. He described this point as an end to the status quo because it represents the introduction of a new innovation in this particular market. This point represented the opportunity to adopt innovation. Then turning upward at a 45-degree angle, he drew a line some 12 inches before he once again turned the line horizontally. He described the second horizontal portion of the line as the point where the new innovation had been adopted by all who would adopt. Thus, it became the new status quo.

As I watched and listened to this differentiation of status quo, innovation and growth potential I thought about the decisions that optometrists make and when they make them in relation to when new technology becomes available to our industry.

Same decision, different results

It dawned on me the that optometrists who are early to adopt innovations (just as the horizontal line of status quo turns upward ) and the optometrists who are late to adopt (those who embrace the new innovation just as the line flattens out once again) are both making exactly the same decision. The decision is this: I will now adopt this new innovation into my practice. The same exact decision!

The only difference is that the optometrist who adopts early enjoys the fruits that come in the form of increased patient satisfaction, growth potential for the practice and increased profitability. Whereas the optometrist who is late to adopt innovation misses out on the benefits of early adoption and is left in the position of once again trying to catch up rather than leading.

Many of the late adopters will defend their lack of initiative by saying that increased patient satisfaction, growth potential for the practice and increased profitability isn't everything. And, I agree, but not in the way that the late adopters mean, which is in defense of their lack of initiative.

Here's what you miss

One other thing that exists between early adoption at the point of new innovation and the next plateau of status quo is the fun. That's right, the fun, something that we should all focus more attention on getting out of optometry. There's the fun of self satisfaction that comes from challenging ourselves with learning and mastering a new skill set, the fun that comes from knowing that you've moved your practice (and what you offer your patients) to the next level and the fun of knowing that I'm not pointing my finger at you.

Have fun!

Optometric Management, Issue: May 2006