Vision Impact Institute

Essilor, an international producer of ophthalmic optics, launched an organization dedicated to socio-economic-related vision issues: the Vision Impact Institute. Today’s most widespread disability, impaired vision, affects 4.2 billion people throughout the world, of whom 2.5 billion have no access to corrective measures.

In its quest to achieve better vision for all, the Vision Impact Institute will act as a global connector of knowledge, data and solutions. The Institute’s mission is to raise awareness about the socio-economic impact of poor vision and to foster research where needed, encouraging measures in the field of corrective vision. It will work to ensure that poor vision and the economic implications emerge as a global challenge.
This public health issue has substantial economic consequences at both an individual and collective level: $269 billion in productivity is reportedly lost every year because of impaired vision, even though all the required solutions (eye exams, corrections) are available.

The underestimated economic impact of impaired vision

While one of the most widespread disabilities in the world, impaired vision and its cost are still underestimated in developed and emerging countries: 30 percent of young people in the world under the age of 18 reportedly suffer from uncorrected refractive error, which is often not diagnosed due to lack of awareness or access to care. This proportion rises to 33 percent in the labor force, 37 percent among elderly people and 23 percent among motorists.

The economic impact is significant globally: around $269 billion in productivity is reportedly lost every year, including $50 billion in Europe, $7 billion in Japan, and $22 billion in the United States–even though there are solutions to correct most of these impaired vision cases.
The annual global cost of productivity loss corresponds to providing an eye exam for half of the current world population. Thus, simple measures might drastically reduce the economic consequences of impaired vision and also the social ones, even though the cost, level o f access to care, and awareness differs by country.

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The Majority of Indepedent ECPs Participate in Charities, According to a New Transitions Optical Study

 

More than 70 percent of independent eyecare practices are actively participating in charitable activities, according to research released through the Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund. However, the survey also reveals that there are barriers to increasing the amount of outreach being done, as well as opportunities to improve how programs are utilized and communicated.

“As an industry that provides such a valuable public service, we have the ability to really make an impact on people’s lives with our outreach efforts,” says Mary O’Hara, regional giving officer and associate marketing manager, trade communications, Transitions Optical, Inc. “Whether it’s providing free vision services, educating in the community or participating in larger optical industry charity events, there are plenty of ways for interested eyecare professionals to help.”

Education and Patient Communications: Missed Opportunities
The majority of the survey respondents (60 percent) provide eyewear to patients through their charitable efforts. The second most common service provided is eye exams (55 percent), followed by vision screenings (41 percent). However, only 25 percent of those who are participating in charitable outreach reported that they provide education as part of their programs.

“Every interaction with a patient provides an opportunity to educate on the importance of protecting vision,” says O’Hara. “Especially during vision screenings, which result in a historically low rate of follow-up care.”

Another area that was identified in the survey as not reaching its potential is patient communications. A study in 2010 found that 86 percent of consumers believe it’s important that companies stand for something other than profitability. Yet only 46 of the practices who participated in the survey are talking about their charitable endeavors to patients. In-office display materials and direct patient communications (newsletters, social media, etc.) were also revealed as being underutilized for this purpose.

Charitable Outreach Challenges
According to the research, respondents who are currently participating in charitable outreach programs are targeting underprivileged populations (58 percent), general populations (50 percent), kids (43 percent), national/regional vision charities (32 percent), blind/low-vision populations (23 percent), seniors (16 percent) and multicultural groups (11 percent). While the survey indicates that the majority of practices are engaged in some level of charitable outreach, respondents revealed some challenges.

Primary reasons why eyecare practices are not doing more non-profit work are lack of time (47 percent) and budget (42 percent). In fact, 30 percent said that they would increase the amount of charitable work they participate in if they could receive additional funding. Additional volunteer support (17 percent), education materials (17 percent) and interest from audiences they wish to support (11 percent) would also encourage more interest.

How the Healthy Sight for Life Fund Can Help
The Transitions Healthy Sight for Life Fund is a resource for industry professionals who are looking to enhance, expand or initiate a charitable program in their practices. Since 2008, the Fund has provided educational resources and financial support to optical industry professionals who are aligned with its mission of helping preserve healthy sight for a lifetime. Grants exceeding $1 million have been awarded for efforts including school vision screenings, public awareness campaigns, outreach through sports and recreation activities, low- or no-cost treatment for people with eye disease and programs to provide comprehensive vision care, vision wear and education to those in need.

While much of the work of the fund is done in partnership with non-profit organizations in the U.S., Canada and globally, a portion of the available grants are reserved for eyecare practices and laboratories that have charitable programs. To apply for a grant, professionals should submit a request form, located under the Healthy Sight Grants tab of www.healthysightforlife.org.

 

Low Vision Technology

 

Closed Circuit TeleVisions (CCTVs) have evolved into one of the most useful tools used by people with low vision for accessing printed information. A more descriptive name for these technology tools is video or electronic magnifiers. This category has expanded so rapidly that we now have several distinct sub-categories including: desktop models, hand-held camera models, electronic pocket models, and digital imaging systems.

Computer/Screen Magnification Technologies: Hardware & Software Accessing computers and other electronic devices can be difficult for people with low vision. In addition to hardware options such as larger monitors, monitor extension arms, and Fresnel lens magnifiers, there is a wide variety of software options available to assist in this area.

*        Display property adjustments to operating system and application software
*        Accessibility features of operating system
*        Cursor enhancement software
*        Screen magnification software such as freeware/shareware, low cost and mid-priced magnifiers, full-featured magnifiers

Other Useful Technologies for People with Low Vision: Many people with low vision find some auditory and some tactile tools useful for certain tasks. Topics covered include:

*        E-book readers – auditory/visual
*        Cell phones – auditory/visual
*        Tablets
*        GPS – auditory/visual
*        Calculators/dictionaries – auditory/visual

 

Are Eyeglasses More Fashionable Now than 5 Years Ago?

Most eyeglasses wearers (66.9%) recognize that eyeglasses are more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago. Only 1/7 of those who currently wear eyeglasses believe that eyeglasses are not more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago, according to The Vision Council VisionWatch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report.

When compared to other eyeglasses wearers, women, younger Americans, eyeglasses wearers from higher income homes and eyeglasses wearers who also use contact lenses were all relatively more likely to believe that eyeglasses are more fashionable now than they were 5 years ago. Also, it is interesting to note that the same demographics that view eyeglasses as more fashionable now are also the same consumer demographics that did not slow their purchases of Rx eyeglasses during the recession and weak economic recovery; their sustained purchasing activity has helped minimize the overall industry losses from 2008 through 2010.

In the average practice, the optical shop represents 60%-70% of the dollars coming through the front door. We need to pay attention to this area of the practice. Generally, our first thought about the optical side of care is to promote function over fashion. Our typical focus is to make sure the patient is able to function maximally at work, home, school and play.  But, the Vision Council Vision Watch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report reminds us to not forget fashion.

This Vision Council Vision Watch Fashion vs. Function Eyewear Report gives us valuable information. Fashion is important to our patients. It needs to be important to us as well. Based on this we need to question how well we manage fashion marketing in our opticals.

Fashion marketing goes beyond just merchandising. Fashion marketing involves positioning, branding, marketing mix, and, yes, merchandising. From the perspective of fashion marketing, go back and look at your optical and answer these four questions:

    1. Where have you positioned your optical?
         -High dollar
         –Medium dollar
         -Low dollar

     2. Have you branded your optical?
          -Do you have recognizable brands in your optical?
          -From just visuals, can a patient successfully navigate your optical?
          -Is there a theme in your optical?

    3. Do you manage your marketing mix?
          -Do you show the same frames as other opticals in town?
          -Do you have a minimum of 25 frames in each brand on the frame board?
          -What do you do with your non-performing frame lines?

    4. How well does your optical manage frame merchandising?
          -Do you highlight brands?
          -Are your displays focused (i.e.: not too many products on one display)
          -Are your best sellers at eye level?

Don’t just think about this, instead walk into your optical and ask yourself if you’ve achieved the fashion marketing objectives described above. Do you have room for improvement? Create a fashion marketing plan today to make your optical the best it can be.

Are You Running a Modern Billing Department? If Not, Here’s How

Use the latest technology and third-party services to make insurance processing more efficient for your practice.

There are many aspects to utilizing technology, software and people to modernize billing and tracking of both vision and medical insurance. Your practice can make the most of such technology to make billing more efficient and profitable. Here is how you can do it.

Recognize 5 Keys to Optimizing Billing Technology

SOFTWARE THAT GENERATES REPORTS: Utilize practice management software that is capable of generating reports on billing status.

EDUCATE STAFF: Educate staff to be dedicated to efficient use of insurance. Education of a key staff person to coordinate vision benefits and medical benefits is imperative. It is also necessary to train front desk employees to capture insurance information prior to the patient being seen by the practice.
 
PREVIEW INSURANCE INFO:  Provide insurance information to the doctor prior to seeing the patient. The doctor needs to be aware of medical as well as vision benefits for both professional fees as well as ophthalmic materials.

DELEGATE: Assign a single individual the final responsibility of making sure claims are filed and accounts receivable reports are up to date.
 
USE A CLEARING HOUSE:  Utilize a clearing house (a third-party company that you send your paper claims to for transference into electronic claims) to achieve maximum efficiency.

The modern practice and its billing department can benefit from the innate efficiencies of a clearing house. VisionWeb could be your clearing house of choice, however there are several to choose from such as Gateway, and Eyefinity. Having implemented VisionWeb/Emdeon many years ago in our practice, you may enjoy the following benefits:

Centralized Claim Filing
It is possible to file claims online without using a clearing house, but this method is far from ideal. Filing claims electronically without a clearing house means going to multiple sites on the Internet, with varying user interfaces, to get the job done. Advanced billing departments realize there is a better way. Clearing houses are a go-to solution for practices because the clearing house software allows employees to do all of the following in one location:

  •    Check patient eligibility
  •    Submit and track claims
  •    Process secondary claims
  •    View detailed reporting information
  •    Manage Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA)

Efficient Management of Reporting and Analytics
Even the most efficient office will have denied claims. The way we keep a close eye on our claims is through detailed reporting and analytics that cover every aspect of claims, such as:
-The number of claims that have been rejected vs. accepted
-Top payers that are rejecting claims, by amount
-Timeline of claim submission for tracking
-Top rejection reasons
 
Optimized Practice Management Systems
Good practice management software is the brain center of a practice. Practice management software is a significant investment, and yet, practice owners are putting them to work, especially for claim filing. Technologically advanced practices utilize their practice management system claim filing functions to:

-Create batch claim files directly within the system
-Upload the batch claims and submit directly to payers
-Reduce redundancies associated with re-keying claims
-Generate reports quickly and easily on demand

Utilize Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA)
Billing departments become more efficient when they avoid paper claims. EOBs, especially, since payers have migrated to electronic payment methods, are processed more quickly via the internet.  Electronic Remittance Advice is common among progressive practices. Filing via your computer simplifies the reconciliation and secondary claim filing processes by:

-Providing remittance information in a searchable, electronic format
-Making it easy to search remits by payer,  date or provider  
-Giving users the ability to print only the information they need for secondary filing

Utilizing the most efficient electronic format increases the productivity of your personnel and your practice. Change is often disruptive initially, and yet, we adapt and change or we continue to fall behind. Make the insurance processing technology changes your practice deserves!

Advice to a Third-Year OD Student: What Do You Wish You Had Known?

What am I going to do now? Where am I going to find a job? How do I go about opening up my own practice? These are just a few of the many business-related questions optometry students face when nearing graduation. A further question might be why these questions have to be asked in the first place. Although there has been a drastic effort and improvement to educate our new graduates on the basics in business management of optometry, is it really enough? At what point must we make an effort to educate ourselves?

While it is helpful for optometry schools to lend students a hand at getting started in business, students also need to take the initiative and seek out information. Unlike past generations, we are fortunate to have tremendous resources lying at our fingertips with the internet. Thanks to our smartphones and electronic tablets, we can pursue that information during any spare moment. Waiting for class to begin? The perfect time to catch up on your reading of professional publications such as this one or check in with optometric groups on Facebook. The key is reaching out and obtaining information rather than waiting passively for the needed knowledge to miraculously drop in our laps.

As we all know, optometry school can be quite rigorous and demanding. Although many of us are concerned with simply getting through the curriculum, we must not neglect the business aspect of optometry. It is this lack of planning and knowledge along with the immediate burden of debt that forces our new graduates into modes of practice they never envisioned (or wanted). The optometry students who always dreamed of private practice, but find themselves a few years after graduation stuck working for someone else, can sometimes blame themselves for not being more proactive and educating themselves on what it takes to get started in business. Don’t let your optometric future choose you rather the other way around. With the right business, as well as clinical education, you have a greater chance of choosing the optometric career you always envisioned.

We understand the importance of learning the practice management and business side of optometry. As we are all in this together, we write this post with the intention of enlightening our peers with feedback and advice from experienced OD’s. We hope our efforts will generate a greater interest in our colleagues toward the business aspect of their future careers. We also encourage student feedback and responses. If you have any specific questions you would like answered,  please e-mail us or post it here, as it may be a potential topic for discussion, and probably a question other students would like to know the answer to as well.
 

What advice do you seasoned ODs wish you were given before you graduated? What do you students feel you need to learn more about?