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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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3 Major Marketing Trends for 2020

They aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses.

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AS WE ENTER 2020, many businesses are looking at their budgets. Marketing is always an important consideration but it can be difficult to determine where to focus.

One constant: marketing is ever-changing. Knowing that most of us have finite marketing dollars, let’s break down a few trends that are likely to perform well in 2020:

Local Influencer Marketing

If 2018 and 2019 were the pinnacle of national and international influencer marketing, 2020 will be the year of the local influencer. Local influencers — high-visibility people and organizations that reside near your location — are extremely effective if their local reach is strong.

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These influencers often do not have the six or seven-figure follower counts that their national/international colleagues do, but that is a strength in the context of local marketing. A local Instagram influencer with 25,000 followers likely has higher engagement, and when it comes to getting people in your back yard to take notice, engagement is key. And those smaller local influencers almost certainly cost less than their national counterparts.

How to Get the Most Out of Influencer Marketing
  • Have a well-defined measurement of success (link clicks to a website, sales of an item, etc.)
  • Implement as much tracking as possible (tracking URLs, call tracking #s, etc.)
  • Engagement is more than just “likes;” look for shares and commenting activity.
  • Offer an incentive if the influencer hits certain performance thresholds.

Digital PR

Public relations, in its traditional sense, involves trying to get your brand mentioned on the radio, TV, newspaper, etc. The same is true for digital PR, but replace those more traditional media outlets with their digital equivalents. This ties in with search engine optimization and is likely to get more intertwined with SEO over time.

PR is a time-involved and challenging process. However, when it works, it works extremely well. This is not only due to the brand exposure that your business receives, but the SEO benefits.

How to Get the Most Out of PR
  • Focus on stories that have broad appeal, such as how parents can address eye teaming problems in infants versus something generic and overplayed (“Did you know kids need an eye exam?”)
  • Don’t pitch your services or your business; being mentioned is enough to accomplish the SEO/branding benefits you’re looking for.
  • Build relationships with local bloggers and journalists, as they may come to you in the future asking for your opinion.

Engagement in Local Social Media Communities

Younger audiences are rejecting traditional media and favoring social communities. Millennials, born 1980-2000, are the driving force behind this trend.

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Websites such as Reddit and Facebook allow people to create their own hyper-focused communities, and the broader trend is creating communities that are hyper-localized. Reddit, traditionally a content curation/aggregation site, has a community for just about every major city and state, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the popularity of FB groups.

Look for ways to engage these communities. Often, the administrators will allow you to advertise if you follow certain rules or pay for the privilege. The hoops you jump through are worthwhile.

How to Get the Most Out of Social Engagement
  • Reddit hates when businesses hock their services/wares. Instead of selling yourself, look for ways to add value to the conversation — people will come to you on their own.
  • Avoid generic messages (“It’s back to school time!”) and focus on information that is more regionally relevant (“Dry eye is pervasive in Las Vegas, here’s why…”)
  • When linking back to your website, link to a helpful blog post versus your homepage or service pages. People hate being sold but love to go shopping — let them find your sales channels on their own.

The above trends aren’t the only game in town, but they are currently among the most overlooked from small businesses. Actioning them now with smart strategies will give you a leg up over your peers.

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Remember This Uplifting Fact About the Eyecare Business Next Time You’re Dealing with a Tough Customer

Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice.

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IT’S A POWERFUL thing. I am an optician and a writer. As a writer most people think that my goal is to make a fortune by having a best-seller and getting some studio to pick it up and turn it into a movie. While I will be the first to tell you that is a thing we all dream about, my motivation is different.

I want to make an impact. I want my words to carry meaning over the years to come. I want what I have to say to make a difference in people’s lives. Hopefully in a positive way. I would wager that most of us have similar motivations. What does that have to do with opticianry, you ask? As it turns out, quite a lot.

It was a busy day in my office. There were at least four people waiting for me to help them. We’ve all been there. A patient that I help on a regular basis popped in for an adjustment and made idle chitchat with the other patients waiting for me. The patients were patient that day.

It was a nice change of pace.

As I finished up the sale I was working on, I heard the man say something that caught me off guard. “I’ll bet Will has no idea how many lives he’s touched in here.” I looked up, trying to hide my shock at the comment. He was 100 percent correct. It’s something that I had never thought about.

Everyday, we help people see. Some of us have been at this for decades… how many people have you impacted? How many have they impacted? The thought hit me hard.

Every interaction makes an impression. We tend to focus on the “customer satisfaction” end of things to a fault. Once they are out of our offices we forget what we did for them. Frankly, for the most part we don’t care as long as they don’t come back complaining. But the thing is, we are literally a part of their every waking moment. They wear our work on their faces, and in a small way their contributions to the world are ours too.

That pilot you fit for glasses flies people all over the world because you helped him see. That engineer that just designed the newer, better, longer-lasting lightbulb did so because you helped her see. That local business owner can sign payroll because you fit them flawlessly in their first progressive lens. We as a community make the world as we know it work.

As far as my writing is concerned, you are reading it right now. Who knows, maybe my words will carry some meaning to you. Maybe you’re struggling to remember why you get up every morning and drag yourself in to the office to get yelled at by angry impatient people. Maybe, just maybe, you needed to read this to get your head back in the game. Comically, that’s exactly why I needed to write it; to remind myself why I do what I do.

No matter how small you think the difference you make in this world is, it could be everything to someone else. Sometimes the biggest impacts we make are the ones we don’t notice. Once in a while, like at the start of a new year, it’s important to stop and reflect.

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John Marvin

A Different Approach for Achieving Your Goals This Year

Only 3 percent of people will take the time and discipline to do this, but they’ll make more than 10 times the 97 percent who didn’t.

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MY FATHER TURNED 90 years old this past August. My relationship with him has changed over the years, but the older I’ve become, the more I appreciate learning from him. He is a voracious reader, and I enjoy hearing about the books he is reading. This past fall, he suggested I read a book he’d just finished and now I’d like to suggest that you do too. It’s called Goals by Brian Tracy.

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Everyone is familiar with the importance of setting goals. This time of year, we are inundated with resolutions and fresh starts. But based on studies, 25 percent of people who make New Year Resolutions don’t even keep them a full seven days. Sixty percent abandon them within six months. Why do we have such difficulty achieving goals?

I’d like to suggest a different approach for reaching your goals this year.

Decide on three things you want to achieve. You can choose one or two if you like, but no more than three. There is power and focus that comes from keeping the list small; it doesn’t allow for distractions. Take time to decide what it is you want. Pretend you have three wishes and be careful how you use them. Deciding what you want is the most challenging part of achieving your goals.

Write Them Down

Write a paragraph, describe it in detail and in the present tense; not “I’m going to …” but “I have” or “I am.” Take time to think through the impact of achieving the goal, be specific and detailed in your description. Writing down what you want to achieve is, in itself, powerful in its ability to help you focus. If you contemplate what the goal will do for you, your family or business, you may decide that it’s not a goal you have a burning desire to achieve. Knowing what you don’t want can be as important as knowing what you do. This only happens when you write down your goals in detail.

Make It Measurable

Describe what you want in terms that are measurable. Stating that you want to make more money is not measurable.

How much more? If you’re going to grow your business revenue, then set an exact percentage. Don’t compare it to the industry; set the amount you want to achieve. Determine whether you wish to increase your gross or your collections. Once completed, there will be no question as to whether or not you achieved your goal.

Set a Date

Setting a date is critical as it drives motivation and helps keep the focus on working daily to achieve your goal. Not only should a date be set for when you will reach your goal, but it should be broken down into months, weeks and days. Every big goal is achieved by reaching a series of daily goals. This gives you a plan. Record in your calendar your daily goal and the result. This daily exercise will keep you focused and provide a visual you can use for motivation.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but studies show that only 3 percent of the people who read this will take the time and discipline to put these simple steps into action. Studies also show that the 3 percent who do will make more than 10 times the money of the 97 percent who didn’t. What you experience in this new year is entirely up to you.

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