Lauren Dickerman, OD, MA, received a surprising offer in 2001 – the chance to take over an established practice. The doctor who was retiring had not been pursuing new patients, so the practice was dwindling a little, but Dr. Dickerman saw it as a great opportunity – even though the timing was difficult. It was just after 9/11 and days after she realized she was pregnant.
But she did bring new ideas to the practice and built it steadily. In fact, Harvard Square Eye Care in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has now grown to a four-location business with four other doctors. Three offices are in Cambridge, and one is on Martha’s Vineyard.
“Contact lenses have been extremely important in our growth,” she says. In addition to a full range of soft contact lenses, the doctors fit scleral lenses and myopia management lenses. “We are a general practice, and each of the doctors has an interest area, but we all do contact lenses.”
From her start as an owner, she used ABB Optical Group as the practice’s contact lens distributor, but that focus with one-stop shopping became diffused as the practice began ordering some lenses through other platforms. “More recently, we looked at ways to be more competitive and efficient and realized that we needed to consolidate our contact lens services with ABB again,” she says. “Using multiple distributors became too much to handle and too much to keep track of.”
Her ABB account manager Jesse Ellis helped a lot, showing her and Kathy Alexander, the practice’s general manager, other services that ABB now offers that could help them save time and money.
Saving the doctor time: “As the contact lens business grows more competitive, it’s difficult to spend time with each of our contact lens representatives. Jesse brought it altogether for me with his reports. He was able to show me globally where my business was going, so that we could choose to schedule meetings with the vendor representatives that had the most impact,” says Dr. Dickerman.
Saving staff and patients time: The practice implemented Abby, the online contact lens ordering platform. Alexander says that using Abby has made life simpler for staff and patients. “It’s an easy system to navigate, and once we place patients’ orders on there, they can reorder on their own and have the contact lenses shipped directly to their homes. We still realize the revenue, but we don’t have to handle each of these orders or the tasks that go with that process,” she says.
Plus, Abby sends reminders to patients who may not have bought an annual supply when it’s time to reorder. “Patients like the flexibility of being able to order when they need to, and when they learn that there’s no extra cost to having them shipped to their homes, they almost all prefer this option,” she says.
Easier administration: At the same time that the practice implemented Abby, it also added ABB Verify for all of the offices. ABB Verify can scan patient appointments and find what vision benefits the patient has. “Many patients don’t really know what they have, so it’s not unusual for us to let patients know that they have unused benefits they can use here,” she says. Since everyone in the office is trained on how to use ABB Verify, what used to be a long and tedious task of vision benefit verification is now much faster.
“Like all businesses, the hiring market is difficult now. If we can help keep our staff members happier by not having them do mundane tasks, that’s good for us. Between Abby and Verify, it’s almost like having an extra staff person around,” says Alexander.
Better insights: The practice recently added ABB Analyze, and Alexander says that she is looking forward to working with that more in the new year. “It’s going to be a good for us to have that level of analytics,” says Alexander. “We can pull some of this information out of our practice management system, but that can be cumbersome, and it only gives us our own data to compare ourselves to. Using ABB Analyze, we can see how we’re doing against aggregated ABB data, and it’s much easier to drill down by office, doctor and even employee,” she says. That will allow the locations to react more quickly and to recognize those practice patterns that are highly effective or that need some attention. Their ABB account manager can help them interpret the data across contact lenses, lab purchases and more.
All of that is good news to Dr. Dickerman. One of the strengths of the practice is how well the employees work as a team. “I hear all the time from patients who are so impressed by our caring approach to patient care. I want them to be happy,” she says. Leveraging the tools that allow them to shine at their work is a smart business move.
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