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The Magic of Helping People See

By Tim Jankowski, OD October 22, 2021

My first eye exam was a magical experience for me. I was a typical nine-year-old kid who thought my vision was just fine. But, after that 30-minute exam, I realized I could see even better than I previously imagined. I couldn’t believe that in such a short period of time, someone was able to take vision that I thought was pretty good and make it even better. That “magic” is what led me into the field of optometry, where I’ve spent decades helping generations of families see even better than they imagined. 

Cultivating Relationships Both in and Out of the Practice 
Private practice was my goal from the beginning. I liked the independence and flexibility that allowed me to be there for others both in and out of the practice. Most important to me was being able to attend every single one of my daughter’s high school golf matches. I was the only father of the six girls on the team who made every single match--it was special to me and I know it was special to my daughter. 

Private practice optometry has also given me the opportunity to help patients in ways beyond their vision. My favorite patient story is a 95-year-old woman whose husband had just passed away, and she was living by herself. She needed to keep her driver’s license in order to continue doing simple things like going to the grocery store or the bank a couple of times a week. We were able to get her to 20/20 vision, with the best possible correction and glasses she could wear. She went off to the DMV to get her license renewed, and then a few weeks later came into the practice jubilantly waving her new license. It meant the world to her—without that independence, she likely would have spent her last years home-bound, relying on others to meet her needs.   

Getting New Patients in the Door 
I am fortunate to say I am now seeing the fourth generation of my earliest patients. That tells me a couple of things. Number one: I’m old. Number two: Our practice has done a pretty good job over the years of gaining patients’ trust and building lifelong relationships with them. At our practice, we listen closely to our patients and ask questions not just about their vision, but also their work, their lifestyle, and how they spend their free time. When we have the whole picture, we not only get to know them as people, but we are better equipped to tailor our care to their specific needs. As a result, once patients walk in the door and experience our practice, they usually don’t leave us—rather, they bring in their families and friends and become lifelong patients. The key, of course, is getting those new patients in the door.  

VSP Global Premier Program 
My practice really took off when we joined the VSP Network back in the 80s—almost immediately, new patients started showing up at our practice with really no effort on our end. When the VSP Premier Program launched, we experienced even more growth, with new patients going from 5% of the practice to 20% almost overnight. The program is based on years of finding out how doctors work and what’s important to us, and being part of it has helped our bottom line significantly.   

FEDVIP (Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program) 
With open enrollment beginning in November, FEDVIP has given us another opportunity to see more patients in our practice. FEDVIP enables federal employees, retired military, and family members of active duty to choose VSP vision coverage as one of their healthcare benefits. In our practice, we see a lot of postal workers and employees of the nearby Seal Beach Naval weapons station, as well as veterans from our local retirement center. Not only does FEDVIP bring us more patients who are looking for that decreased out-of-pocket expense, but it helps cement our relationships with those patients. We have found that once patients enroll in FEDVIP, they are back in our office every 12-15 months, purchasing materials and building loyalty to the practice. 

A favorite FEDVIP patient story is a retired military veteran who flew Phantoms off aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. He’d been a patient for a number of years, and we had a great relationship. I couldn’t understand why we didn’t dispense more materials to him—sometimes we went years without dispensing. That all changed once we pointed him in the direction of the FEDVIP program. He started coming in more frequently, regularly updating his glasses, and bringing in his family to do the same. 

Working the Magic 
As Doctors of Optometry, all we want is the opportunity to provide the best care possible to our patients. Programs like the VSP Premier Program and FEDVIP have increased dramatically the number of new patients that come into our practice, giving us the opportunity to work our magic and build lifelong relationships. As I see it, optometry is a lifestyle, a calling. We help people see better than they imagined possible. That’s magic. 

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