Dr. James Vann instructs a patient on matters of eye nutrition.
Doctor ‘supplements’ patient care with a focus on diet and nutrition
Talking to patients about the key role of nutrition in their health is something Dr. James Vann, OD, is more than comfortable doing. He’s done it from the early days of his practice, VisionArts Eyecare Center, which opened in Fulton, MO in 1992. Certified as a holistic health practicioner, Dr. Vann provides his patients with a unique approach to eye health and wellness that focuses on diet and nutritional supplements.
THE IDEA: “You protect your eyes from the outside with sunglasses but you can protect them from the inside with the foods and nutrients you eat,” says Vann. He started recommending macular degeneration prevention supplements 10-15 years ago but it wasn’t easy going at first. “What every doctor fears, we stepped right in it,” he says. “When we started, we were trying to help but we got a reputation for trying to sell supplements. We made that mistake and have really scaled it back.” Now, VisionArts focuses on this through testing and reviews those results in the exam. “If people want assistance after that, we help them,” explains Vann.
Modern technology has helped support VisionArts’ approach. Several years ago they incorporated a Biophotonic scanner which tests patients’ dietary habits. With the results in front of them, they discuss and address a patient’s nutritional intake.
THE EXECUTION: “We offer a Blindness Prevention package,” Vann says. For $39 VisionArts offers Optomap and Biophotonic scanning.
“Over 85 percent of our patients choose the Prevention package. Then, I go over their score and things they can do and eat as part of a treatment plan. The goal is to detect and prevent early so we can really make a difference. Now, patients come in excited to see how they’ve faired over the last year, how their habits have improved.”
Dr. Vann tells patients it’s best if they eat their nutrients and which foods are best. “Then I lead into if you don’t think you can do that, you can always get it in a bottle and here’s how we can do that. We make supplements part of a nonchalant conversation,” he says.
He also constantly reassesses those supplements. “We try to use more natural, less synthetic products. We measure absorption and if it’s not working we change the product. We prescribe them out of the exam room, just like we do eyewear, then there is a more specific understanding of them,” he shares.
THE RESULTS: VisionArts’ focus on nutrition is less about profit and more about treating the whole patient; gaining their confidence and trust. “We want them to understand we genuinely care about them and the health of their eyes, and their nutrition is an integral part of that,” says Vann. “With that said, we do see a boost in profits because it sets us apart from the average optometry office. Patients are confident we want what’s best for them and refer their friends and family to us.”
Inside VisionArts Eye Center.
Some of the materials used with patients at VisionArts Eye Center.
Do It Yourself: Focus On Nutrition
- Educate yourself and stay on top of the latest eye health studies and products to provide patients with the most useful and up-to-date information.
- Constantly reassess the supplements available. Some of Dr. Vann’s favorites; zinc-free MacuHealth, Nordic Natural fish oils and Longevinex.
- Get over ‘selling.’ “Discuss how it affects patients clinically. I don’t feel bad prescribing high-end lenses. Treat supplements the same,” he says.
- Like Dr. Vann at VisionArts, provide informative handouts so patients can review the information provided at home at their own pace.
- Use suppliers who ship direct with a provider incentive program. “We give patients a code. It benefits our bottom line, while offering them the best price.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of INVISION.