Avoiding Disruption

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO November 16, 2015

If you have any question as to how fast the eye care industry is changing, just read the headlines. In just the past few weeks: CVS Pharmacy made the decision to add eye care to its healthcare offering, and has begun a five store pilot; Essilor announced the purchase of the PERC Alliance Group; and Luxottica announced an agreement to put LensCrafters in 500 Macy's stores.

Holy moly! As an independent eye care professional (ECP), we can't help but feel a bit uneasy about all this.

New players, new teams and new allies are the order of the day. Combine that with the profit-centric motivation of ever-increasing private equity investment, and you have the potential for industry disruption.

How is it possible for the independent ECP to chart a course through such an ever-changing landscape? In the words of that great philosopher Dr. Seuss, "Sometimes the questions are complicated; the answers are simple." At the end of the day, we must understand our patients and remember that it always comes down to providing excellent patient care, delivering responsive customer service, and creating high-perceived value.

Professional optometry has grown and prospered because of our excellence in patient care. We are recognized for our skill and expertise and for outstanding patient outcomes. Access has meant opportunity to provide service and we have delivered. However, in this changing industry, we must be careful not to take patient perceptions for granted.

The ploy of the disruptor is to attack the value proposition of the incumbent. In our case, we need to aggressively counter "low price, good enough" messaging. We know our patients deserve far more than a minimalist offering and we must make an ongoing commitment to presenting the facts.

And, finally, we find ourselves in an industry with many alternative practice venues. I believe one of the real secrets to long-term success is to help make sure that doctors can make independent choices on behalf of their patients regardless of practice venue. If we can ensure high professional standards across the board, everyone benefits.

As I see it, change is all around us and will continue. It is critical for the independent ECP to understand their patients and that they continue to work hard to keep their message front of mind. If we are prepared to aggressively combat any disruptive force which may seek to devalue our offering, and if we press for professional autonomy for all doctors, then all boats rise. All patients deserve the best we have to offer.

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