Vision Loans Program Receives Additional $10 Million in Funding from Essilor and VSP Vision Care

Essilor of America, Inc., and VSP Vision Care announced that they each have committed an additional $5 million in funding to the Vision Loans Program, which supports independent eyecare professionals (ECPs) by providing loans to optometrists looking to finance first-time practice purchases, partnership buy-ins and refinancing options.

The Vision Loans Program is a joint effort between Vision One Credit Union, Essilor and VSP. Since its launch in 2003, the program has distributed nearly $58 million in financial support to optometrists who want to enter private practice and those who want to successfully transition out. All loan payments are reinvested back into the program to ensure the continued success and growth of private practice optometry. “Supporting the Vision Loans Program is an important way for us to help optometrists remain independent and competitive in this changing marketplace,” says Howard Purcell, OD, vice-president of Customer Development at Essilor.

“The dynamics of the optometric practice today present some unique challenges to graduating ECPs.This added commitment will help thousands more enter private practice, and we are glad to provide that support.” Vision Loans provide funds for first-time buyers interested in:

Partnership Buy-ins: To purchase an ownership interest in an existing practice.

Practice Purchases: In conjunction with existing Vision One loan programs to purchase 100 percent of a private practice.

Down Payments: In conjunction with seller financing when purchasing up to 100 percent of a private practice.

Practice Refinance: Available for debt used as initial start-up or purchase of a private practice. “Innovative offerings like the Vision Loans Program help make certain that independent optometry can grow and renew itself year after year,” says VSP Global’s Chairman of the Board Stuart Thomas, OD. “We’re committed to exploring and supporting initiatives that keep independent ECPs thriving.”

Despite an uncertain economic outlook, Vision One says that demand for the program remains strong due to the unique capital loan access it provides, which can be difficult to obtain through traditional bank lenders. In fact, since the beginning of the recession, over $37 million in practice purchase loans have been funded.

For more information about Vision Loans, contact Vision One Credit Union’s lending division at 800-327-2628 or visionone.org.

Wide Discrepancies Between Vision Care Attitudes and Practices, Says VISTAKON Study

While Americans rank sight as the most important of the five senses, a new survey shows that nearly half did not get an eye exam in the past year and approximately 30 percent do not believe that taking care of their eyes is as important as other health issues. The 2012 Americans’ Attitudes and Perceptions About Vision Care Survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of VISTAKON Division Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., tracked attitude and behavior changes among 1,000 US adults compared to 2006 benchmark data and revealed surprising discrepancies between attitudes about vision care and actual practices.

Results show a consistently high value placed on maintaining proper vision, although the number of respondents who indicated they do not regularly visit an eyecare professional increased 36 percent compared to 2006 (19 percent vs. 14 percent in 2006).  Alarmingly, approximately one in five (21 percent) US adults mistakenly agrees that they do not need an eye exam unless they are having trouble seeing.

“Despite knowledge and perceived importance, Americans are not making eye health a medical priority,” says Cristina Schnider, OD, senior director, Professional Communications, VISTAKON  “Seeing an eyecare professional regularly for a comprehensive eye exam will not only assess vision and the potential need for updated prescriptions, but it may also help identify and lead to a diagnosis of other health concerns such as hypertension and diabetes.”

Among the respondents who have a regular eyecare professional, the study shows an upward trend in satisfaction rates. Significantly more US adults are extremely/very satisfied with their regular eyecare professional, an 18 percent increase vs. 2006 (80 percent vs. 68 percent in 2006). When asked about the reason for their last eye exam, significantly more respondents noted that they had established a set eye exam schedule (32 percent vs. 29 percent in 2006) or received a reminder from the eye doctor’s office (20 percent vs. 17 percent in 2006–an increase of 10 and 18 percent, respectively).

Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated they sought a referral when selecting their current eyecare professional, with a family member, friend or co-worker serving as the single greatest referral source (40 percent), followed by a health care provider (21 percent). Women were significantly more likely than men to seek referrals for a new eyecare professional (48 percent vs. 37 percent, respectively).

Sources for obtaining information on vision care products are also evolving. Eyecare providers’ offices remain the number-one resource–and the most trusted/reliable–but a growing number of US adults say they seek out a family member or friend for information.The Internet has gained traction as well; an increase of 33 percent of respondents cited this as an information resource for vision care (20 percent vs. 15 percent in 2006).

“These findings are consistent with data from a recent Harris Poll that showed three quarters (74 percent) of all adults have gone online at some point to look for health information,” says Humphrey Taylor, chairman, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive. “As the influence of the Internet as a valued source of health care and medical information continues to grow, eyecare professionals need to work hard to ensure that they are providing the public with relevant, user-friendly and reliable information.”

Other findings from the Americans’ Attitudes and Perceptions About Vision Care survey included the following:

•    Many attitudes regarding contact lenses did not change significantly since 2006, with one exception
o    Compared to 2006, significantly more contact lens wearers agree that it is important to take lenses out daily to give their eyes a rest (93 percent, 2012 vs. 86 percent, 2006).
o    About one-in-five contact lens wearers (17 percent) say they wear daily-replacement contact lenses.

•    Cost is less of a barrier to vision care
o    Approximately three in ten adults (29 percent) agree that they avoid going to their eye doctor because of cost, a 12 percent decrease vs. 2006.
o    Two in three adults have some type of eyecare insurance coverage.

•    Vision correction surgery remains minimal
o    Six percent of US adults reported having vision correction surgery, compared to seven percent in 2006.
o    The likelihood to have vision correction surgery is significantly less, declining from 10 percent extremely/very likely in 2006 to six percent in 2012.

Globally, We Are Losing Our Eye Health, a New Bausch + Lomb Study Reveals

Almost 70% of people from around the world would rather give up 10 years of their life, or even sacrifice one of their limbs, than lose their eyesight. Yet less than one third of those polled take the basic steps necessary to preserve eye sight, according to the “Barometer of Global Eye Health,” a new global survey released by Bausch + Lomb.

Developed in concert with eyecare experts around the world and validated by 147 eye health professionals from 26 different countries, Bausch + Lomb’s study, conducted with its research partner KRC Research, surveyed 11,000 consumers across Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

This first-of-its-kind public opinion poll sheds new light on the state of consumer awareness, attitudes and behaviors related to eye health. While 80% of visual impairment is preventable if detected and treated early enough, according to the findings not enough people are getting regular eye exams and their reasons for doing so vary wildly.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons not enough people are getting regular eye exams seems to be lack of awareness about the connection between eye health and overall health. That’s because the eyes are the one organ where the health of a person’s veins and arteries can be easily seen, allowing eyecare professionals to detect signs of more than 150 diseases, such as diabetes, high-cholesterol and hypertension, years before a patient displays other symptoms.

Through this benchmark survey, Bausch + Lomb hopes to inform and educate millions of consumers around the world about the importance of seeing an eye doctor on a regular basis to avoid serious eye diseases including cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, and to increase the chances of early detection of other chronic conditions.

Key results from the “Barometer of Global Eye Health” showed:
•    Less than one third of those polled take the basic steps necessary to preserve eye sight.

•    If forced to choose, people would rather lose their sense of taste (79%), hearing (78%), one of their limbs (68%) or 10 years off their life (67%) instead of their eyesight.

•    Three-fourths of people would rather have their pay cut in half than have a permanent 50% decline in the quality of their vision.

•    68% of those surveyed say they are knowledgeable about eye health, but this assertion is contradicted by the fact that only 21% had regular eye exams over the past five years.

•    Women were more likely than men to take steps to protect their vision, such as wearing sunglasses (81% vs. 77%), eating a healthy diet (82% vs. 75%) and refraining from smoking (79% vs. 73%.

•    Married people were more likely than singles to have had a comprehensive eye exam in the past year (46% married vs. 38%.

•    For those who did not have regular eye exams, 65%said they had not visited an eye doctor because they did not have any symptoms, and 60%because they had clear vision. This is dangerous reasoning since many eye diseases occur without any noticeable signs to the patient.
       
•    97%of doctors surveyed globally believe consumers do not have sufficient eye health knowledge.

•    94%of eye health professionals said women took better care of their eyes than men.

The survey also revealed multiple myths that prevail regarding vision and eye health:

•    44%of those polled admitted they thought “I don’t need an eye test unless there is a problem,” while 42%said they believe “If I can see, then my eyes must be healthy.”  

•    Almost four in 10 (exactly 39% honestly believed “The only reason to visit an eye doctor is for vision corrections.”

•    When it came to their eyes, 30%of those surveyed said “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not serious.”  

For detailed results from ‘The Barometer of Global Eye Health,’ to read stories about people’s eye health, find your local eye health practitioner, participate in a poll or view an inspirational video, visit www.bausch.com/barometer

Why Haven’t You Taken Your Child to Receive an Eye Exam Recently?

Among the 1,532 parents responding to the Vision Council’s VisionWatch Parent for Child Report who have not taken their children to receive an eye exam within the past two years, 63% claim they have not taken their children for an exam because their children do not need an exam. Parents with children over the age of 10 living at home and parents with more than one child living at home were more likely than other parents to avoid eye exams for their children because of the belief that their children don’t need one.

A significantly large portion of parents who have not taken their children for an eye exam recently (35.6%) believe that their children are too young to experience vision problems and therefore do not need an exam. Parents with only one child living at home, and parents with a child under the age of 10 were more likely than other parents to avoid taking their child for an eye exam due to the belief that their child is too young for a vision problem. 14% of parents said they have not taken their child for an eye exam recently because their vision problems are only minor. This was especially true for parents of older children (age 10 and older) and parents with more than one child living at home. For almost 8% of parents whose children have not received an eye exam recently the perceived high cost of an exam has prevented them from taking their child for an exam. The notion that the exam will cost too much was a particular strong deterrent for parents with no vision insurance and for parents with an average household income of under $40,000 annually.

7% of parents with children who have not received an exam in the past two years said they were too busy to take their children for an eye exam. This was especially true for parents with more than two children living at home and for parents with children between the ages of 10 and 13. Another 7% of parents said their children had not received an exam recently because they did not have an eye doctor. This was especially the case for parents with an annual household income under $40,000, those with no vision insurance coverage and for parents with children over the age of 13 living at home.

What are the numbers?  1 in 4 school-aged children have vision problems.
 
What is the risk?  Undiagnosed visual conditions cause unresolved life problems. What is the solution?  Education.
 
How good of a job are we doing?  Based on the Vision Council’s report, not good. We have to start somewhere, so let’s start in our practices. We can do this by signage in the office.

Here are three signs that should be in every doctor’s office:

“Did you know that 1 in 4 school-aged children have vision problems? A child who has never seen the world clearly has no reference point to tell you that something is wrong. Don’t let your child live with a problem that can be easily addressed. Get your child’s eyes examined yearly by an optometrist.”

“Did you know that the eyesight test done by the school nurse or by the pediatrician does a poor job of identifying visual problems? It identifies correctly about half of the children screened. In other words, when children are given the test, about half are told they do not have a problem when they do or told they do have a problem when they do not. Don’t let your child live with a problem that can be easily addressed. Get your child’s eyes examined yearly by an optometrist.”

“A child’s body changes every year. The eyes are part of the body and they change just like the rest of the body. Just because your child had an eye exam one or two years ago does not mean they are still the same today. Don’t let your child live with a problem that can be easily addressed. Get your child’s eyes examined yearly by an optometrist.”

Where Do You Take Your Children for Eye Exams?

Independent eyecare practitioners (ECPs) seem to be the provider of choice for parents who have taken their child to receive an eye exam sometime within the past two years, according to The Vision Council‘s VisionWatch Parent-Child Vision Care Report.

In fact, 51.2% of all parents with children who have received an eye exam within the past 24 months took their child to an independent ECP for that exam. Parents with health insurance coverage, especially vision care coverage, were more likely than other parents to have taken their child to an independent ECP to receive an exam. Moreover, parents with children who wear prescription eyewear, particularly eyeglasses, and parents from households with high annual incomes were more likely to have taken their children to an independent ECP for their most recent eye exam.

13% of parents who have taken their children for an eye exam in the past two years went to an optical chain (such as Lens Crafters or Hour Eyes) for the child’s last exam. Optical chains were a particularly popular option for parents with children between the ages of 14 to 17 and parents with annual household incomes between $40,000 to $60,000. An additional 9.4% of parents took their child to a mass merchandiser location for the child’s most recent eye exam. Mass merchandisers were especially popular for parents who were not willing to spend more than $100 on their children’s eyewear.

Finally, a little over 16% of parents whose children have had an eye exam during the past two years took their children to a general MD. This was especially common for parents with more than two children living at home and for parents with younger children. Just over 8% of parents said they took their child to a department store or “other” location for their most recent exam.

What %?

Where did they go?

Why and What were the trends?

51.2%

Independent ECP

1.       Health insurance coverage, especially vision care

2.       Children who wear prescription eyewear

3.       Households with high annual incomes

 

16%

General MD

1.       Parents with > 2 children living at home

2.       Parents with younger children

13%

Optical chain

1.       Children between the ages of 14 to 17

2.       Annual household income between $40K-$60K

9.4%

Mass merchandiser

1.       Parents not willing to spend more than $100 on children’s eyewear

8%

Department store or “other”

 

1.       Does your practice actively promote seeing infants (e.g.: InfantSee)?

2.       Are you marketing effectively to children between the ages of 14-17?

3.       Does your optical have options for parents not willing to spend more than $100?

How Often Do Parents Take Their Children to the Eye Doctor?

Over one-third of all parents with children living at home report that their child(ren) have never received an eye exam, according to the The Vision Council‘s VisionWatch Parent Child Vision Care Report. Parents with only one child living at home, and parents with a child under the age of 10 living at home, were more likely than other parents to never have taken any of their children to get their eyes examined. Insurance coverage (of any kind) has little-to-no influence regarding the frequency or history of eye exams among American children.

It appears that the only noticeable and significant influence that insurance coverage has with regard to children’s eyewear pertains to prices and what parents are willing to pay for the eyeglasses their children wear. In particular, parents with some type of insurance coverage (health insurance, MVC and/or FSA/MSA) are more likely than parents without coverage to be willing to pay more than $99 for a pair of children’s eyewear.

These facts highlight the need to educate all patients about the need for children to have their eyes examined. Everyone is either a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt or a friend of a child. The circle of everyone’s life touches a child at some point, therefore, educate everyone.  

Use a multimedia approach to educate people. Use simple signs placed in the reception area, computer screen savers, brochures, scripted elevator speeches by staff–use whatever you can to communicate the need for children to have their eyes examined. Make sure your primary message is that undiagnosed visual problems contribute to two unresolved life problems–school performance not at expected levels and poor athletic performance. Unresolved problems mean that children are making life choices based on what they can do rather then what they want to do. Make the point that unresolved means unnecessary.

Your action plan today is to re-examine how you are educating people about the need for children to have their eyes examined and then do it better.

What is Most Important to Patients About Your Office?

When asked about what is most important in the eye doctor’s office, 89.2% said that it is very or somewhat important that the doctor’s office utilize the latest technology and instrumentation, according to Jobson Optical Research’s The Waiting Game report. Hours of operation came in next with 61% of respondents saying that weekday hours (before 9 am or after 5 pm) are very or somewhat important and 56.1% saying that weekend hours are very or somewhat important.

The leading edge of the Baby Boomers just hit age 66. This large group of people are going to have a major impact on our practices. They will change our practices over the next 20 years as they move from age 66 to 86. Cataracts, diabetes, hypertension, macular degeneration … chronic disease management is what we need to be preparing for in our practices.

As we think about the Baby Boomers, the most important question is: What is it that the Baby Boomers are looking for in an eye examination? They want two things: personalized attention and high-tech exams. The Jobson research is telling us that almost 90% of our patients want a high-tech exam. So, our action plan is to look at what you are currently doing. Are you offering a high-tech exam? Are patients reporting to you that they are impressed with your high-tech exam?  If not, put in place today a plan to make that happen.