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What Being a Pro Cyclist Taught Me About the Eyecare Business

This eyecare pro’s very best education came on the bicycle.

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I STARTED RIDING as a teenager and never looked back. I loved the solitude and the thrill of riding somewhere I had never seen, getting lost along the way. To this day, I cling to that as a professional rider for Team Type 1. I’ve been lucky. I have raced almost 10 years as an elite athlete and learned more than I could have imagined. I often tell people that despite my master’s degree, my best education came on the bicycle.

Endless Learning

It’s a long process to move up the ranks in cycling. Every time you establish yourself in one area, there’s an up-and-coming rider looking to take your spot. Being successful means being willing to always learn and refine skills.

That same mindset applies to eyecare. The landscape of patient care is changing. Tele-med, online ordering, and new exam technologies and dispensing tools are transforming products and service delivery. To stay relevant, it’s important to embrace current trends and find ways to stay ahead.

It’s No Big Deal

Stressful encounters with patients and employees present challenges, but often it’s a matter of perspective. A hard day at the office is easy compared to race day. The uphill finish on the first stage of the Tour of Gila shows that “hard” is a matter of degree. People can be trying, but accommodating them often takes very little effort, and ends up being the sort of thing they remember.

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Proud to Work Hard

My early cycling days were spent working for others, setting them up so they could win or shuttling water bottles. I learned that good leaders are quick to recognize such efforts.

Leadership means embracing the interests of the organization. I may not own Avenue Vision, but I feel satisfaction when the business hits targets. It’s important to value contributions at every level of the practice.

Save Your Energy

In cycling, learning when to attack and when to sit-in is important. Likewise, I’ve had to learn that not everything in the context of the business is worth my attention. Rather than hearing every sales pitch, I say “no” to a lot of rep meetings. I delegate. This saves mental energy for the right moments.

Remember Gratitude

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In pro cycling, no matter how good you are, it eventually ends. You get a finite window to do what you love. This made me appreciate even the hardest moments. I use that mindset in the office. I make it a point to always thank staff for their work. I genuinely enjoy the patients who come to us. Remember why you chose this job. Whether I’m in the saddle or at my desk, success is about embracing risk and being persistent, remembering and valuing the contributions of the team and always having a good time.

Rebecca Furuta holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health Policy from the University of Colorado Boulder, and works as a sports vision specialist and ABOC/NCLE optician at Avenue Vision in Golden with Dr. Joe Borden, with whom she co-founded the eco eyewear lifestyle brand, Yeux & Eye (yeuxandeye.com). Email her at admin@avenuevision.com.

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When You’re Passionate About Eye Care, the Right Technology Matters

Lisa Genovese, O.D., strives to give her patients the very best. At Insight Eye Care’s multiple locations, Dr. Genovese provides optimal care for her patients using the Reichert® Phoroptor® VRx Digital Refraction System. In this second Practice Profile Video from Reichert’s “Passionate About Eye Care” series, take a closer look and see how this eye care professional achieved a better work-life balance with equipment that’s designed and engineered in the U.S.A.

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Historical Data is the Future of Optometry

Eye scans and retinal images going back decades can help predict diagnosis and progression.

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OPTOMETRY IS BEING cast as a declining profession thanks to the advent of procedures like LASIK and “robot optometrists.” In 2017, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD, suggested his healthcare directors get rid of optometry and audiology services. According to him, “LensCrafters on every corner” means the VA does not need to provide this service any longer. Whether it’s true or not, the perception that optometry’s days are numbered is evident in today’s generation of aspiring healthcare professionals; but despite the decline in applications, there is reason to be optimistic in about the future of optometry.

“The eyes are the window to the soul” may be more than a poetic turn of phrase. The eyes truly are windows into humans because, simply put, the eyes provide a non-invasive way to see inside people. This window could allow for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, by measuring the choroid. The identification of amyloid plaques early on offers a window to monitor disease progress.

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The growing awareness of the long-term effects of concussions presents another opportunity for optometry to have a positive impact. CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated head injuries, is a cause for concern in many sports. The eyes may be a window into how bad a concussion is. More importantly, the eyes may be a record of brain injuries that can be decoded and evaluated. There may also be ways to evaluate if individuals are fully recovered from concussions or just becoming functional again while accumulating damage. The parents of young athletes will press hard for certainty on whether their child truly has recovered. Because CTE requires accumulation and time, there is an opportunity to limit the damage by recognizing the signs early on.

This is where historical data will play a part in an optometry renaissance. In practice management systems across the country, there exists an untapped wealth of eye scans and retinal images going back decades. Right now doctors have patients suffering from CTE and Alzheimer’s disease, who had pictures of their eyes taken throughout their lifetimes.

The historical data is a gold mine of information to be sifted through for early indicators of the diseases. With foreknowledge of diagnoses, the historical data can be targeted effectively, and paired with today’s automation, those images can be evaluated in large volumes to identify the early indicators.

The collective historical data of patients represents a lifeline to a profession that the U.S. government is beginning to consider potentially obsolete. The likelihood that additional diseases besides Alzheimer’s and CTE can be detected early through the eye seems strong. Given how much information can be gleaned from the eye, there are probably quite a number of diseases that can benefit from early detection methods. Those methods will in turn be applied to the historical data to detect additional diseases creating standard operating procedures in optometry practices for disease identification. In the 21st century, it seems ironic to consider 20th century history as the path toward the future, but in the case of optometry, it is.

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The Barebones Employee Handbook and Why You Need One

When done right, it can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.

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THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK might seem like an outdated concept, but documenting policies is more important now than ever before. Not only is the handbook a great orientation tool for new employees, it also works as a guidebook for all employees.

Building an employee handbook can feel like a daunting task, but it’s time well-spent and a crucial part of your staff management toolbox. There are lots of templates online to help you build your initial content, but there are a few items you should include in the first draft:

Business Hours

It seems obvious, but an employee handbook is actually an excellent place to list the obvious operating hours details so no one can claim ignorance on the basics. This is also an excellent time to cover timing expectations for employees. For example, are they expected to be on-site and ready for work 10 minutes before their shift starts? If they are closing, how late after close are they expected to stay and tidy up?

Dress Code

Dress codes often leave a lot up for interpretation, which can be a point of contention. You can eliminate some ambiguity by listing what is and is not acceptable work attire.

Employee Expectations

This is a broad topic, but absolutely crucial. The employee expectations section is where you outline what sort of behavior you require from your team. It can be as general or granular as you’d like.

You may wish to outline specifics like how your employees answer the phone. On the other hand, you might find it sufficient to say that employees should be friendly, diligent, positive, and proactive.

Either way, this section of your handbook should outline what happens if an employee does not meet expectations.

Harassment and Bullying

No one plans on needing these sort of policies, but they should be formalized and easy to find. If someone on your team does feel harassed or bullied, they must feel safe enough to address the issue.

Including harassment and bullying policies in your employee handbook isn’t just about discouraging people from treating their co-workers poorly, it’s about reassuring your team that you will not allow them to be treated poorly.

Insurance Coverage

Some insurance providers will give you and your employees a booklet detailing exactly what your insurance plan covers. Keep one of these booklets somewhere specific in your office, and describe the location in your employee handbook. You could also tell employees how to access their benefits information, or simply include their benefits directly in the handbook.

Making the details of your insurance plan easily accessible to your team ensures you don’t have to answer the same questions about filing a claim over and over again.

Holiday and Sick Time

Every workplace is different in terms of vacation day accrual, access to sick days, how time off is approved, and other crucial details. Your employee handbook is the perfect place to list them. Don’t forget to include instructions on how to apply for vacation days, and the appropriate procedure for taking a sick day.

In order to work as a cohesive team, you and your employees all need to be on the same page regarding your expectations of them, their expectations of you, and what constitutes a successful workday. An employee handbook, when done right, can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.

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When You’re Rushed for Time, Don’t Take Shortcuts

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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THE DOCTOR RUNS on a schedule and optical must do everything possible to stick to that schedule. If the doctor is running a 30 minute comprehensive exam, it’s not near as difficult to adhere to the same patient schedule in the optical, but today, most practices run 10, 15, or 20 minute exam schedules and it likely causes a backup in the optical.

In a comprehensive exam, the doctor is typically not disturbed by phone calls, or other interruptions. But in the optical, it is common to answer phone calls inquiring about when glasses will be ready, to service walk-in patients looking for an adjustment, repair or dispense, or for a patient who ran out of time to return to shop for eyewear. These “interruptions” cause us to get behind schedule. Then, we find ourselves hurrying to catch up. What suffers? Sales and attention to detail.

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Consider the following ideas to reduce lost time:

Create an Optical Schedule

An optical schedule provides the control to reserve/schedule optical consumer needs; such as those who want to come back later for glasses, and reduces the many calls from patients requesting glasses updates, etc. It’s easy to get a fax daily from the lab for lens spoilages, and easy enough to reschedule the few of those that won’t make it back from the lab within 10 days.

Pre-Appoint Dispensing

The more patients you pre-appoint for glasses dispensing, the less bottlenecking occurs during ‘prime time’ patient schedules. Reserve this time during the glasses order and carve it out on the optical schedule before they usually head to work. In our office optical experts take turns two days a week dispensing eyewear from 7:30 to 8:45 as optical customers are headed to work; our doctors begin med checks at 8:30 while first comprehensive patients are in pre-exam.

Don’t Explain the “Add-Ons”

Don’t break down the individual lens treatment components. AR, Blue AR, High Index are “essential,” not add-ons. Your optical consumer wants to buy a pair or two of glasses, not a list of all-too-confusing add-ons, which you know leads to “Do I need it?” “Did the doctor say I need it?” “I didn’t hear the doctor say I need it?” “Is it covered?” Make it simple and simply include the “essentials” into the total lens price. You bought the blouse and the buttons came with it!

Don’t Walk Them to “The Boards of Confusion” to Find Their New Frames

When you walk the optical consumer to the frame boards, it almost instantly becomes overwhelming. Sometimes the consumer says: “I don’t see anything I like!” And you wonder how that’s possible. It’s called “Choice Overload,” a real human psychological dilemma. It’s just too much to take in. Simply ask what they want to change about their frames this time and then go pick them out yourself. Likely you’ll be right 99 percent of the time and you won’t disappoint them with the inevitable “That one’s too tight!” “Too loose!” “Too narrow.” “Too wide!” when they are left up to their own devices. Pick seven frames and help them purchase the three the doctor prescribed. You are the expert because you do it many times every day.

These time savers help you stay on schedule, reduce stress, capture more, and make more revenue with happier, less confused patients.

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