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Doing Nice Things for Nice People

By David Dexter, OD July 22, 2021

You might say healthcare is in my blood—my father was an army surgeon during the second World War and my mother was his nurse. In college, I gravitated toward physics, optics, and all the sciences, so optometry seemed to be a natural fit. I was also drawn to the patient care aspect of the profession; so, I went to optometry school, opened a private practice, and more than 40 years later, I am still happily caring for my patients.

Leveraging All Aspects of Private Practice Optometry
As the primary provider of eye care in my community of 120,000 people, I handle all optometry-related emergencies from the ER and urgent care facilities. My cell phone number is on my practice voicemail, and I answer it 24 hours a day. Providing that emergency care in addition to my private practice services offers an expansive blend of all aspects of private practice optometry—there is never a dull moment! It has also increased my opportunities to build long-term relationships with our community members and family of patients—the most rewarding aspect of this profession.

Finding Strength in Partnership
The secret to our success in the community has been to be involved, be an active member of the community, and partner with others in the industry. I volunteer, have relationships with other healthcare providers, and am a member of associations like the American Diabetes Association. We collaborate and refer patients to each other—it’s a win for everyone.

We also partner with organizations like VSP Global. Leveraging the VSP Premier Program by achieving Platinum level and having the banner on our vsp.com directory listing, we are set apart from other providers in our county so it’s easier for patients to find us. And, we benefit from all of the Premier Program partnerships—EyeDesigns just designed our brand-new office, producing a pleasing patient experience; our Optos device enables us to offer our patients retinal imaging; Maui Jim offers are very attractive to patients given we are on the water and sunglasses are a must; Staples provides discounted office supplies so we can pass the savings on to our patients; and CareCredit gives our patients financing options.

Plus, we sell mostly Unity lenses, with great patient reaction; use VSPOne labs exclusively, because they do a great job quality-wise and are always responsive and available; and Marchon and Altair frames provide great value to our patients. And, we share information about VSP Individual Plans to patients without insurance benefits so they can receive the care they need.  

We also recently partnered with Premier Pathways to hire two new doctors. It can be challenging to recruit to rural areas like ours, and Premier Pathways worked closely with us to find two ideal candidates who will soon join our practice so we can keep it going for years to come.

Enriching Our Staff, Especially During Uncertain Times
Another terrific resource from VSP Global is Premier Academy360, which offers free education. When COVID-19 hit, our office closed for three months—we didn’t know what to do during the downtime, and more importantly, how we were going to keep our staff positive and motivated. Along came Premier Academy360, with over 75 online trainings and podcasts and thousands of CE hours for the optical profession. Not only was it a great way to enrich our staff and teach them new skills, it was a huge mood booster during uncertain times. We paid staff for their time to get up-to-speed on relevant topics and provided incentives like gift cards and pizza for completing trainings. Then, we had staff members transfer their new knowledge to the rest of the office in small groups, reinforcing the information and bringing us together. The Premier Academy360 training is so professionally done, with topics that are relevant to our practice needs—I can’t recommend it enough.

After 40 Years, No End in Sight
Occasionally patients will ask if I’m going to retire, and I always answer, “Not until I get bored.” To this day, I never say that I’m going to work; rather, I ask myself, “What do I get to do today?” I can’t count the number of times I’m in line at the grocery store and someone asks, “Is that you, Doc?” and pulls a family member over to have me look at something in their eye—sometimes other patrons even step in to assist, pulling out their cell phones to provide a flashlight.

When people ask what sets our practice apart, I tell them that we do nice things for nice people and we do it all day. After 40 years, we know these patients, we know their families, and they know us. They come in because they want to make sure their eyes are healthy, that they can see well and will see well for a lifetime. As I see it, it’s important patients are comfortable with me, know that I love being able to help, and when they walk out, know they are family.

Dr. Dexter is the owner of Harbor Eye Associates and a VSP Ambassador.

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