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3 ways ODs can combat 1-800-EYE-EXAM


The recent announcement that 1-800 Contacts has partnered with online eye exam provider Opternative to offer consumers eye exams online has rocked the optometry community. What can we learn from this announcement, and what should we do?

The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

The recent announcement that 1-800 Contacts has partnered with online eye exam provider Opternative to offer consumers eye exams online has rocked the optometry community. What can we learn from this announcement, and what should we do?

Related: 1-800 Contacts now offers Opternative refraction to its customers

Remember optometry is a legislated profession

This should be a wake-up call to all optometrists that we are truly a legislated profession and we need to be involved in local, regional, state, and national politics than can affect our profession. For those engaged in the political battle and assault on our profession, thank you. For those less involved, please take this as a clarion call to get involved.

Currently, 11 states have passed some form of legislation which prohibits patients from receiving a refraction from an online business like Opternative in lieu of an initial in-person examination. Each state’s legislation is slightly different, but all prohibit this online prescribing.

Related: 1-800 Contacts ramps up legislative fights

The states that currently have legislation are:

• Alabama

• Georgia

• Indiana

• Ohio

• Oklahoma

• Maine

• Michigan

• Mississippi

• Nebraska

• Rhode Island

• South Carolina

• West Virginia

Related: SC vs. Opternative: An example of what makes optometry great

This is the first of many challenges we will face as technology and business continue to make inroads and advances into our profession. As a friend of mine recently said, “Everyone wants to be an optometrist except optometrists.”

If we don’t get and stay involved, we may get our wish.



Disruption is here to stay

Disruptive technologies are not new and they will not go away. The demise of Blockbuster video is often used as a case study to demonstrate how a business that fails to evolve and change with time and technology can fail. The king of video rental went bankrupt in 2010 while Netflix has grown into a $28 billion business.

Related: Will optometry’s fear of disruptive technology backfire?

Today, we face numerous disruptive technologies: online refractions, discount providers, online glasses sales and more. We also face new market pressures: narrow healthcare networks, managed vision plans, industry consolidation  and vertical integration to name a few.

What can we do?

Here are three things you can do today.

1. Do all the things that disruptive technology cannot, and do them well

Don’t focus on what online refraction does but rather look at all that is does not. Direct your energy and efforts not to competing but educating patients on what differentiates or distinguishes you from an online eye exam.

Such disruptive technology is a challenge to us all that we need to be very deliberate and thoughtful in all we do-especially in how we serve our patients. The level of customer service and commitment to exceed patient expectations must be higher than ever.

Related: How ODs fit into the future of online refraction



2. Develop a niche practice

We have seen a move toward lower fees. I have even seen advertised free exams with two pairs of glasses and a free puppy for $79. Maybe not the free puppy, but you get the gist.

While this is happening, the demographic populations shifts have created enormous opportunity. The opportunities to develop a specialty practice have never been greater.

I am thrilled when I speak with optometrists who are not only surviving but thriving in specialty care practices. A few opportunities would include:

• Dry eye

• Retinal wellness

• Health and beauty

• Specialty contact lenses

• Total medical mode

• Binocular vison

• Pediatric vision

• Sports vision

I have seen offices where optometrists are specializing in these offerings and thriving doing what they love.

3. Do something…even it is wrong

The last thing you can do right now is keep doing what you are doing. Do something different tomorrow.

Join the American Optometric Associatoin (AOA), join the gym, start running, take cooking classes, have a staff meeting and brainstorm what you can do in the office, get a new haircut, or buy new clothes.

Do anything, but do something.

You see, once you start to take action, no matter the initial move, the long-term result will always be better than doing nothing. Once you start taking action, being proactive, and keeping that up day after day, possibilities will emerge, and the end result is always better.

In the military, we have a saying, “Improvise, adapt, and overcome.” The saying comes from the knowledge that in battle no plan survives first contact with the enemy. I would submit that we have had first contact, and I am not sure what anyone’s plan is or was, but it is probably time to start improvising, adapting, and overcoming.

Dr. George Foster, a leader in our profession and a mentor of mine, once told me, “You are what you get paid for.”

Truer words have never been spoken. It is time that individually and collectively we decide what we are and, more importantly, what we want to be.

Read more from Dr. Spear

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