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Data Mining Made Easy

Business intelligence software helped this practice identify key metrics and hit targets. 

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A KEY CHALLENGE FOR independent retailers is learning to “read” business data, recognize key patterns in it and grasp its potential significance for the bottom line.

A number of vendors now provide business intelligence (BI) software designed to make this process easier and to help optimize profitability. Among these are systems tailored for optometric businesses that can, for example, allow users to view top-selling frame brands and, with a click, view all of the transactions involving the chosen brand. Another key benefit of such software is that it offers a dynamic, day-to-day, “real time” indication of your performance, allowing you to make informed decisions quickly without waiting for quarterly financial reviews.

There are a range of BI vendors emphasizing various aspects of data analysis. Among them, Domo is pitched as a general business solution; Ocuco targets optical chains; and Brevium has carved out a niche in “patient reactivation” for medical practices. Westminster Eyecare Associates in Providence, RI, shared with INVISION its positive experience with one such software suite, GPN Technologies’ EDGEPro.

THE IDEA

Barney-Burchfield

Barney Burchfield

Back in the early 2010s, the team at Westminster Eyecare Associates had a problem; the practice was successful, but coming up with metrics for that success was a source of frustration. “It was far too difficult to track not only how our practice as a whole was doing, but how our individual staff members were working towards their goals,” recalls Westminster’s general manager, Barney Burchfield.

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They decided to look around for simple options that could be integrated with their existing office software and help them get a handle on their optical production, and ultimately settled on EDGEPro, a BI software suite from GPN Technologies designed to allow optometric practices to monitor key business metrics, discern revenue trends and set earnings goals, among other things.

“We researched a few [products] online and discovered that EDGEPro was compatible with our practice management system,” says Burchfield.

THE EXECUTION

EdgeProWestminster Eyecare implemented EDGEPro in early 2014 and according to Burchfield the system quickly helped to clarify where they were in relation to where they wanted to be. “By the following month, we knew exactly where we stood financially and what we needed to do to reach our profitability goals,” he says.

Burchfield says EDGEPro helps Westminster Eyecare monitor detailed sales information and suggest opportunities for future growth. “Each category of frame and lens options is broken down and compared with previous figures to monitor growth,” he says. “We also use it to track commissions, so staff members can see exactly where they can improve.”

The learning curve was minimal, according to Burchfield. “Team members feel empowered to improve, having the information at their fingertips,” he says. Tutorials were offered, but the team got a handle on the software pretty easily. “We quickly found ways to customize it to our practice’s needs.”

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THE REWARDS

Overall, Burchfield says complementing Westminster Eyecare’s existing practice management software with a system that focuses on financial goals and performance was a good move. He lists the main benefits as finding areas where the practice needs to improve, demystifying sales statistics and other numbers, and monitoring goals. The clinic side has also benefited, getting an efficiency boost from exam-tracking information.

Do It Yourself: Onboard a Business Intelligence Software System


  • EASY FIT. Burchfield urges practices thinking of introducing BI software to prioritize a system that can be merged seamlessly with your practice management, accounting, point of sales and EMS software.
  • WORTH 1,000 NUMBERS. Data visualization lets you see data in visual formats (maps, graphs, charts). Unless you really get a kick out of reading rows of figures, be sure to ask your vendor if their product includes this feature.
  • AT A GLANCE. Before choosing a BI software, discuss with potential vendors the kinds of metrics you’ll most likely want to follow and ask them if a) they have a dashboard feature; and b) whether it’s customizable to include this info.
  • ON ALERT. Think about whether you need an alert function. Some BI systems can notify all team members, including those who aren’t looking at dashboards, of key data. These can also celebrate team and individual goals.
  • CLOUD VS. IN-HOUSE. Are you after on-premises hosting or cloud-based software? If you have a dedicated tech crew who can handle it, the former may work for you; otherwise the latter option is generally cheaper and easier.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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