The Business: Jim Greenwood: Team Play

Expanded healthcare alliances help eye docs stay competitive

This article originally appeared in the September edition of INVISION.

Vision Source CEO Jim Greenwood Optometrists are experiencing an evolution. Opening a practice and being a great doctor is now just a starting point. In today’s healthcare environment, independent optometrists need more business savvy than ever. A thriving, independent practice means sourcing creative solutions to offer the best patient care.

Although this evolution is making us better, it can still be challenging. Happily, independence does not mean going at it alone. At Vision Source, we’ve found that banding together to leverage broader business-to-business relationships and teaming with other healthcare professionals are two keys to success.

As optometrists, we all have our own challenges amid rapid change in healthcare. For our network, staying ahead of the curve means proactively forging relationships with integrated healthcare systems, looking for mutually beneficial ways to integrate our vision care services and strategies into their models. Vision Source is already collaborating — or is in discussions to do so — with more than 100 healthcare organizations. This means patients will have greater access to more channels of quality care through our doctors of optometry. We’re spreading the message to patients and other medical professionals that optometry is not limited to correcting simple refractive error. As I talk with my contemporaries in and out of healthcare, they’re often surprised to learn that optometrists detect a range of diseases, many of which are not limited to the eye.

Diabetes is one of the most common. Statistically, one in three diabetics are not even aware that they have the disease. Annual eye exams are an opportunity for early detection, particularly if the patient has not been seeing a primary care physician. The patient’s eyes tell a story of their overall health. Our optometrists have shared many stories with us about patients presenting with vision problems, that — after a thorough eye exam — have been diagnosed as more serious diseases. By providing early detection of such diseases and referring patients to the appropriate healthcare professionals, we are saving lives.

Collectively, our outstanding clinicians are treating well over 50,000 patients a day. Many of these patients have serious health risks and no primary care physician. We see this as an opportunity to bridge this gap in care and help primary care physicians gain a greater understanding about the role of optometry in the overall health management of their patients. Vision Source provides tools to help our optometrists begin this dialogue with the PCPs in their community — and we’re learning that our optometrists who make this outreach a priority see substantial practice growth.

We identify ourselves as independent optometrists, but it would be naïve to think that independence means living on an isolated healthcare island. We know we need to position ourselves as key players in the healthcare community who can screen for a full spectrum of health issues. The result will be better patient outcomes and satisfaction and a stronger, more sustainable future for our eyecare businesses.

Jim Greenwood is president and CEO of Vision Source, North America’s largest service network of independent optometrists. Founded in 1991, the alliance now includes nearly 4,000 members. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..