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Bitcoin, Blockchain and Medchain, What Does it Mean for Eyecare Businesses?

The war over the PD could be at an end.

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AT THIS POINT, everyone and their mother has heard of Bitcoin, even though no one seems to be able to really explain it. It all seems to come back to a vague notion of this thing called blockchain, which sounds cool … but what is it? And why should we in the medical world care?

Without embarking on a two-hour presentation on the history of blockchain or writing in techno-jargon that makes me seem smarter than I am, it’s about data security and encryption. While there are horror stories about scammers and hackers in the Bitcoin world, these attacks have never succeeded in breaking into blockchain, but into the accounts of individual users. Blockchain is a public record of encrypted and unalterable data transactions that allows them to be transferred securely while maintaining public verifiability.

As a Bitcoin enthusiast, I see a lot of ads for blockchain-related content and new cryptocurrencies daily. I usually ignore them, but one caught my attention. It’s called Medchain and it’s promising the data security of blockchain to the EHR world. That’s right, boys and girls. Your PHI data can be transmitted with the same encryption direct to you for personal viewing, and for carrying from practice to practice via an app. I was intrigued and thought, “How will this impact my branch of the medical community?” So, I decided to pick up a shovel and start digging.

I contacted Medchain asking for an explanation of what their tech would do. “The initial software roll-out will function as an intermediary platform between providers,” which sounds intriguing, but what does it mean?

It means that your PHI can be requested by your optometrist via blockchain securely and that you, the patient, can instantly approve or deny the request via a free app. The company itself does not store data and can’t view the PHI. The information is sent in fragments through the blockchain network and requires an identifier to assemble and view. Meaning, eventually software developers will feel pressure to implement compatibility between their products. Oh, and it’s airtight HIPAA compliant.

What’s that mean for opticians?

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Well, potentially it means the war over the PD will be at an end. It means that a patient will be able to access their previous orders and see just what they had, from lens designs to frame measurements once the software is integrated. The upside is that it will allow us to see what they had as well. It means that Steve Rogers won’t be calling you anymore. He’ll just use Blockchain to verify Rx’s. It will increase patient portability and force us to face a very serious question: Do our patients come to us because they have to, or because they want to? (It’s rhetorical guys, and if the answer isn’t want then you should seriously rethink your strategies.)

As it stands, Medchain will not be a platform for EHR itself, nor will they be doing billing through the platform. It is specifically data transfer from doctor to patient to doctor. It would just be a matter of time before software companies began to make their software programs compatibly usable.

For those of us who are old enough, imagine a trip back to 1990. The Internet has begun and everyone is confused as to what the hell it is. Teenagers are trying to explain to our parents that we can talk to our friends and share pictures. They are unimpressed, sticking with their landlines and Polaroids; but we pressed on and look at us now. With the click of a button, you too can see what I am having for dinner tonight.

This technology promises to be the same kind of game changer and it will continue to develop in ways we cannot foresee. Notables like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon are buying in, lending legitimacy to the technology’s future potential. Then again, it could be relegated to the dustbin of technological history like the pager… only time will tell.

Will Burdeaux, ABOC, NCLEC, has been an optician since 1998. Currently, he works at Tallman Eye Associates in Salem, NH.

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

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WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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John Marvin

Begin Your Business with the End in Mind

Few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell.

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THERE IS AN OFT quoted question from Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. She asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” says the Cat. “I don’t much care where,” responds Alice. The cat replies, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Far too many optometrists and optical owners seem to subscribe to this approach to their careers.

I have known many optometrists who spend 40 years owning a private practice who wish to sell and retire. However, they are often faced with the sad reality that they have followed Alice’s approach. Whether it be a vacation, a wedding, or a career, planning is critical to getting where you want to go.

Last month’s issue was about beginnings — starting a new business — something I’m familiar with having helped almost 70 young optometrists build a new practice. Everyone knows you don’t successfully open a new practice without the proper planning … but few doctors understand that the day you open is the day you start planning to sell. A successful ending requires just as much planning as a successful beginning.

Stephen Covey famously said in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, “…begin with the end in mind.” Start with a clear understanding of your destination. If you have not clearly defined what you want to achieve at the end of your career, then likely you won’t like how it ends. To start, ask yourself: “If I were a young optometrist, what kind of practice would I be excited to own?”

Having worked with hundreds of young, entrepreneurial optometrists, I can suggest the following:

A Great Location

It’s likely that over the forty years you own your practice, your neighborhood and community will change. It’s possible it will improve, but more likely it will change for the worse. Our society is in constant motion, new developments are built and people move. Evaluating whether you should relocate is of utmost importance. A prospective buyer will want growth potential.

An Updated Space

If you’ve been in practice for over 25 years and have not remodeled your office, it will be very hard to appeal to a young optometrist. Retail and clinical space design has changed significantly in the past decade. Visit best in class retail businesses to see how they are designed; note how they merchandise their products and approach customer service. Keep your practice competitive with others that appeal to customers. What do customers and patients experience when in your business?

Modern Equipment

Today’s refractive and diagnostic equipment is light years from what was purchased ten or twenty years ago. Today’s digital phoroptor and digital preliminary testing equipment enables doctors to provide a higher quality of care that patients have come to expect. Advances in digital imaging allow doctors to identify and manage pathology which previously had gone unnoticed. This is what will be expected by anyone interested in buying your practice.

Well Merchandised Inventory

One of the most overlooked aspects of a 35 or 40-year-old practice is its inventory. It’s a part of the business many doctors ignore and delegate it to someone on staff. The result is an optical that is overstocked and out of date with only about twenty percent of the frames actually selling over and over. The rest just sit and attract dust. When the practice is sold, the thousands of dollars tied up in old inventory drags down the value of the practice.

Put yourself in the shoes of a young optometrist and think of the kind of practice they would want to own. Write down the qualities of this practice, this is the end that you have in mind. Once you know where you are going, it will be much easier to end up where you’ve planned.

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Robert Bell

The Single Best Tool to Help your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.

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JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

Once your staff is stocked up on cards, it’s time to train them. For Robert’s business card sales training tips visit invisionmag.com/extras.

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