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Coming Up With Outside-the-Box Solutions

By Ryan Wineinger, OD July 21, 2016

Ideas are everywhere. Think of all of the ideas that you've had in the last week, day, or even in last 30 seconds as you're reading this blog. Ideas are created or thought of because there’s a solution needed for an issue you're trying to resolve. 

Optometry is at a crossroads in its evolution where independent practices are constantly being challenged by a multitude of competitors, from online marketplaces to big-box retail. I was fortunate enough to participate in an interactive event in Atlanta, Georgia a few weeks ago where a balanced mix of 40-plus ODs and practice managers came together to problem solve how to keep their practices relevant in the ever-changing world of eye care.

This was my first exposure to what is called “design thinking” or “human-centered design.” It’s a creative approach that starts with the end user (in our case, an OD, practice manager or patient) and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to address their needs. It was such a unique experience to watch doctors interact with their local peers to help both their individual practices as well as provide insight and suggestions for future enhancements to the VSP Premier Program.

The event started with defining an issue or problem, so each table was asked to contribute ideas on challenges their practices face. That information was then communicated to the entire room where we came up with themes of the major challenges we face daily as practice owners. We then went into a team exercise to come up with ideas to combat some of those challenges. The last portion of the evening consisted of looking at the solutions that each team created and picking the benefits and additional opportunities for each. 

The ideas gathered were extremely beneficial as VSP looks to continue to enhance its Premier Program in support of private practice. The event was a great example of how much variety is in our industry; each doctor in the room brought a unique perspective to the discussion and those unique perspectives built upon each other to develop some awesome concepts! I heard ideas around new technology for the optical dispensary (think Siri combined with a touch-based selling utility) to communication tools to help keep Premier Program practices in touch with their patients. 

As I see it, the event did two things for me: First, it demonstrated that VSP wants to hear from its provider network and is figuring out new ways to connect ODs to discuss local challenges in private practice, and by listening to these challenges and going through the design thinking session, VSP will be able to better identify programs that fit the current and future needs in this industry. Second, design thinking is a great way for me to help my staff come up with “outside-the-box” solutions for issues that we deal with in our office.

For more information on VSP Global’s design thinking sessions, visit

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