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Robert Bell: My Gift To You

You have the power to make a difference in your community.

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

I have seen the gentle touch of an optician’s fingertips, caressing someone’s ears, adjusting temple tips, transform an angry, street-dwelling young man into a smiling, appreciative soul who hugged and held on to this optician.

I have seen an optometrist pull out a chair, warmly welcome and listen to an older, disheveled woman who said with a tear in her eye, “I am so grateful. No one ever looks at me, let alone listens to me.”

I have seen an optical industry veteran put a behemoth of a man, with a scowl on his face, into a +3.00 over-the-counter reader and witness this massive entity start to hysterically cry. When he was able to catch his breath, he exclaimed, “Now, I can fill out a job application!”

I have seen a retired optician burst into tears when she dispensed a petite, red luxury eyewear frame to a diminutive, very myopic, homeless woman (who had been wearing a windshield of an old, plastic men’s double bar frame for years). She looked at herself in the mirror, slowly smiled and said, “Maybe people won’t think I’m homeless anymore.”

That melted the entire room.

Robert Bell, Scott Balestreri and Karen Flynn are volunteer leaders for Project Homeless Connect Vision Services in San Francisco. PHOTO BY JAMEY THOMAS

Stories of transformation. For people in need and — here’s the surprising part — for those eyecare professionals who give of themselves!

About eight years ago, an optician “suckered” me into volunteering my time, just for one event, for a San Francisco charity called Project Homeless Connect. I say “suckered” because, until that point, I didn’t think I was the volunteer type. But I was the one who put that large gentleman into a +3.00 reader, and I was absoultely blown away by his reaction and response. I haven’t missed a PHC event since. I was, in a word, transformed!

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I went on a recruiting spree. I wanted other local ECPs and industry people to join us … yes, of course to help our neighbors in need, but for another reason as well. How selfish would I be if I didn’t offer this extraordinary feeling of fulfillment to others? The hardest part of recruiting was getting someone to volunteer for the first time. After that? They beg to know when the next event is because they can’t wait to do it again! You should see the smile on my face right now.

I am honored to be part of this extraordinary group of eye doctors, professors of optometry, opticians, optometry students, pre-optometry students, industry executives and sales representatives who volunteer in providing vision services through Project Homeless Connect.

So in concert with INVISION’S Big Story this November, I wanted to share my experience with you and ask you directly: What can you do in your community?

For those of you (and I know there are a lot of you) out there who already volunteer your services, you make this world a better place. As a human being, I am personally grateful. For those of you who haven’t yet volunteered your talents as an ECP in your community, please do. Try it. Just once.

It doesn’t have to be with a homeless organization. It could be at nearby school or at an assisted living home. You can contact your local clergy or an organization like United Way and say, “I want to raise my hand. I want to help give the gift of sight. How can we go about doing this?”

Yes, if you get involved, your gift of vision will most likely change someone’s life. My gift to you? It will change yours! Much love. Happy holidays!

Robert Bell is the founder of EyeCoach, a Sales & Marketing Practice. He is one of the most inspirational, innovative and effective speakers/trainers in the eyecare industry. His workshop “Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Selling” is highly coveted. Email him at eyecoachworkshops@gmail.com

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Editor's Note

The ‘Year of Vision’ Has 366 Days

So how are you going to make the most of your extra 24 hours?

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DO YOU EVER FEEL like there just isn’t enough time in the day? Or days in the week? Or weeks in the year? … Those are rhetorical questions. I know we all feel that way… on a regular basis.

We all also know a common year has 365 days. But this year, a leap year, the “year of vision” no less, we get 366 days! How cool is that? This year we literally have an extra day to get our sh*t done.

So it’s pretty appropriate that this issue’s Big Story is about doing just that. On page 34, we give you 22 ways to stop thinking and start doing in Act Now! My personal favorite, and one I plan on implementing, is #12: Don’t substitute talk for action. There are always immediate deadlines in publishing and sometimes the larger, long-term projects suffer because of them. But the “No Zero Days” concept is approachable enough that I can apply it immediately and chip away at those big tasks little by little, without letting the more pressing ones suffer.

However, if a whole extra day just doesn’t seem like enough, our Special Feature on page 42 is all about how you can steal a few minutes back out of every day. I am a big proponent of a daily to-do list — which I priority plan for the whole week on Sunday — in a Word doc so I can have the visceral joy of crossing things off (thank you strikethrough!) and the practical ability to move things that don’t get done to later in the week (hello, cut and paste!) It’s really all about finding a system that works for you and if you don’t have one yet, this story should really help.

And hey, if what you really need is to take that bonus day and do abso-freaking-lutely nothing, then do it! Rest is a valid form of self-care and if you’re not at your best, how is your business supposed to be?

So how are you going to make the most of your extra day?

Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Want more good news? Then here is the perfect Instagram follow for you. (Eye Spy, page 12)
2. Video is huge… but many are scared of it. We’ve got some easy tips to get you started. (Monthly Project, page 16)
3. Keep your staff happy and healthy. Implement a Wellness Reimbursement Program. (Best of the Best, page 48)
4. Just cause you’re the boss doesn’t mean you’re always right. Let a staff member win once a day. (Tip Sheet, page 50)
5. Think your biz is too small to need an official employee handbook? You’re wrong. Luckily, building a barebones one is easy. (Columns, page 56)

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Columns

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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Columns

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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