By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO May 11, 2015

There is no doubt about it – change is constant!  I am sure that you have seen the announcement that Rob Lynch will be retiring as CEO of VSP Global and will be succeeded by Jim McGrann, the current President of VSP Vision Care.  This upcoming change has led me to a time of reflection as I look back at the very successful past ten years and look forward to an exciting future.

To say the eye care industry has changed in the last ten years would be an understatement.  Clearly, much has happened since President Bush began his second term and since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  Independent optometry was faced with many challenges, each with the potential to be disruptive.  The optical marketplace saw unprecedented consolidation.  A fundamental change occurred from employer funded benefits to voluntary participation.  The internet has enabled unparalleled access to information, fueling a marked increase in consumerism among our patients.  And let’s not forget Health Care Reform and its potential to direct patients to certain providers.  To our credit, our profession has met every challenge and continued to move forward.

So what is ahead of us in the next ten years?   Well, nothing is harder to predict than the future, but let me list a few of the trends.   Online shopping will continue to increase as Millennials emerge in the market place.  Social media has changed the way information is exchanged and requires that we have a strategy going forward.  Potentially disruptive technologies like telemedicine will need to be monitored and evaluated.  Private equity will continue to pump money into our industry and attempt to change the competitive landscape.  In a nutshell, it will be critical that we stay on our toes if we are to stay ahead of the changes.

So, what is a doctor to do?    First of all, we need to carefully evaluate our marketplace.  We need to continuously reinvent our strategies and let the obsolete ones go.  We must be much more selective in choosing our industry partners and modify the way we view vendor relationships.  We must make opportunities in independent practice for the next generation of doctors because it is they who will carry the baton going forward.  So, let’s keep our boxing gloves laced up and make good strategic decisions so that we can be agents of change in our industry.  Our enemy is complacency, let’s not go there.  As Yogi Berra put it, “the other teams could make trouble for us if we don’t win.”

VSP Global has added over 30 million covered lives to the patient pool for the independent doctor over the past ten years.   Access means opportunity.  Jim McGrann comes to the helm with a technology background and is well equipped to continue to lead in the quest to add to our patient base while providing competitive supply chain solutions.  I see great things ahead for independent optometry.

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