How a blue ocean strategy can keep you competitive

October 4, 2016
David Kading, OD, FAAO, FCLSA

Dr. Kading owns a two-location, three-doctor practice in Seattle. He specializes in dry eye and contact lenses with an emphasis on keratoconus and meibomian gland dysfunction. He also owns Optometric Insights, a service providing career coaching, with Dr.

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Mile Brujic, OD, FAAO

Dr. Mile Brujic practices in Bowling Green, OH. He also owns Optometric Insights, a service providing career coaching to optometrists. He has received honorarium for speaking, writing, participating in an advisory capacity or research from: Akorn, Alcon L

What do you think it would be like to practice in an environment free of competition? How about having a complete lock on a market?

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

What do you think it would be like to practice in an environment free of competition? How about having a complete lock on a market?

If you haven’t read the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, I would recommend you do so. This intriguing book on business development describes the competitive landscape that exists for most businesses and describes it as doing business in a red ocean.

In a red ocean business model, products and services become increasingly similar, and cost starts to become more important differentiators in the consumer’s mind. Red oceans promote commoditization as increasingly similar features from competitive companies are pitted against each other.

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Blue ocean strategies are based on a completely different philosophy. In a blue ocean strategy, companies pull out of the competitive red oceans and thrive in a blue ocean. That is, an ocean not saturated with competition, but one that opens a segment of a market to new customers.

Chrysler’s minivan changes the market

One of our favorite examples of a blue ocean strategy is that of a car company in 1984 on the verge of bankruptcy. At the time, Chrysler was in dire straits. Prior to this time, auto manufacturers made cars, station wagons, and large vans. That was until Chrysler produced the first minivan in 1984 and revolutionized the auto industry.

Before its creation, consumers would have never found value in a minivan. Why would they need one? If they wanted a van, vans were available on the market to purchase. And if they wanted a car with a little extra space, a station wagon fit the bill.

Related: What is the best contact lens for your patient?

But in 1984, Chrysler changed everything by defying logic and bringing the minivan to market.

Since then, Chrysler has experienced unprecedented success with the minivan. It took years for other car manufacturers to even begin to compete in the minivan market. Even once they entered the market, it was difficult to build a similar brand loyalty that Chrysler’s minivan commanded. With the creation of the minivan, Chrysler created a blue ocean business model.

So are there blue ocean strategies available within optometry?

 

Going blue with macular degeneration

I know that you may be thinking that this is more relevant in other industries and not so much in optometry. But just as other companies have broken away from traditional red ocean business models, there are opportunities in optometry as well. The best thing about optometry is that by practicing to the level of our scope and identifying unmet needs, we see a number of blue ocean strategies that give us the opportunity to remove our practices from the typical red ocean.

One example of this is how we view our macular degeneration patients. Although we all are familiar with the three standards to managing these individuals (UV protection, not smoking, and the AREDS 2 formula), one can wonder if there is anything else that we should be doing?

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A number of optometrists have already started to accept a more proactive approach to managing macular degeneration beginning with wellness. This includes measuring macular pigment optical density to identify low levels and appropriate counseling strategies to increase this risk factor. Additionally, several optometrists have incorporated dark adaptation technologies to test for the earliest signs of macular degeneration.

After diagnosis, there is genetic testing available to determine the patient’s risk of developing severe vision loss along with recommendations on appropriate AREDS formulations (containing zinc vs. not containing zinc). Monitor these patients for changes over time with fundus photos and macular OCT scans.

Additionally, be sure to provide optical solutions for your macular degeneration patients, including recommendations to protect against UV and high energy visible light.

These are two vastly different approaches to macular health and the opportunity to provide excellence in patient care.

Going blue with presbyopia and contact lenses

Another example of a blue ocean strategy is the opportunity for contact lens wear for presbyopes. Although virtually all presbyopes require refractive correction, they seem to have the lowest percentage of individuals who wear contact lenses.

Related: How to use technology to improve patient care

Years ago, we may have made the arguments that the technologies available to correct our presbyopic patients were inadequate. Today, we have a vast array of contact lens options available for these individuals, including:

• Daily disposables

• Frequent replacement

• Soft torics

• A multitude of gas permeable lenses (including scleral lenses)

• Hybrid lenses

Yet, presbyopic patients are still inadequately served with remarkable opportunities to help this demographic wearing contact lenses.

Swim in that blue ocean

Although these are only two examples of moving from a red ocean to a blue ocean, there are a number of opportunities for blue ocean strategies in eye care. Through embracing the scope that optometry offers us to care for our patients along with understanding where unmet needs may exist, we have the ability to think blue ocean.