DON’T OVER- OR UNDERESTIMATE MARKET CHANGES
IT HAPPENS to all of us. Another technology threatens to disrupt the eye care profession, and you start to worry whether optometry will be a viable profession in the future.
Each generation of optometrists has to reckon with some new instrument or procedure that may be a game-changer. It has looked like autorefractors would replace us, refractive surgery would steal our contact lens patients, and online glasses could decimate our optical retail spaces. It’s important to recognize whether the next new thing is truly pivotal or just a blip. It’s natural to worry, but let’s take a moment to attain some clarity and perspective. What is the right amount of anxiety about some of optometry’s newest challenges?
ONLINE GLASSES SALES
When glasses were first introduced online, many worried about losing large amounts of their retail optical sales. But, the percentage of prescription spectacles sold online represents less than 5% of respondents, according to The Vision Council’s Internet Influence Report in November 2016. It’s also interesting that players, such as Warby Parker, have been building stores.
Anxiety level: Moderate. Patients are seeking better buying experiences.
Action plan: Designate funds to redesign your retail space; connect with frame display vendors for a plan to reinvent your optical area; and consider what these retailers offer your patients in regard to frame board management, merchandising and the patient experience. (See Dr. Ziegler’s four-part series on frame board management, which began July 2016.)
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
As AI improves, it is possible that refracting and prescribing could easily be done by a computer. Some say mall kiosks will be available for patients to get refracted and order glasses on the spot. Remote refractions in the workplace or home could replace routine eye care for consumers who don’t appreciate what a comprehensive exam provides.
Anxiety level: Low. When ATMs were first introduced in 1967, it was thought they would replace bank tellers. Today there are 400,000 ATMs, but the number of tellers has risen because ATMs made it cheaper to open branches, according to economist James Bessen, author of “Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages, and Wealth,” on an EconTalk podcast. Technology will likely make exams more efficient, so we can see more patients in less time.
Action plan: Fully delegate as much of the exam to ancillary help as possible, and employ scribes in the exam room. Spend your face time with the patient solving his or her vision problems.
Recent acquisitions and mergers have made the big, even bigger. When you’re the small fish in a big pond, it can make you wonder what these changes mean for your practice.
Anxiety level: Low. Communities develop deep relationships with their local eye doctors. Small, private practices have figured out the patient relationship, and that is where they excel.
Action plan: If your practice is approached by a private equity company, make the decision that is right for you. But, the majority of practices will not have to. Continue to improve your connection with your patient base, because that is your competitive advantage.
A little stress and anxiety can be motivational. Don’t let fear paralyze you. OM