*VM Web EXCLUSIVE: "Membership Has Its Benefits," Say ECPs in Buying Groups and ECP Alliances

As buying groups evolve to offer more than just vendor discounts and ECP alliances increase in prominence throughout the country, the benefits to eyecare professionals continue increasing. We asked a small sample of members of these organizations to describe exactly how belonging to these groups helps improve their practices:

We’re seeing a change in independent optometry. We used to rely on sales of eyeglasses and contact lenses, but that’s diminishing. We need to be savvy about our two businesses—the medical practice and the optical—and IDOC helps us run those businesses. We definitely improved our profit margin in both businesses.
̶ Gary Morgan, OD, Eye Tech Eye Associates, Peoria, Ariz., member Independent Doctors of Optometric Care (IDOC)

“The two major benefits of belonging are cutting expenses and being involved in an organization that promotes practice management. You can be a great doctor, but to be a great doctor and a good businessperson, that’s unique.”
̶ Kimberly Frantz Boyer, OD, Sission-Boyer Eyecare, LLC, Newport, Pa., member of Vision Source

“The greatest benefit is information sharing in a non-competitive, non-threatening environment where there’s a genuine concern for the success of all of our practices. One of the biggest improvements that I’ve experienced in my practice is a sense of ownership by my staff.”
̶ Steven Chander, OD, Primary Eye Care Associates, Chicago, member OD Excellence

“The power of purchasing in a larger group is substantial for a small practice like ours. The Alliance is good for availability with every lab we work with and even with medical supplies and office supplies. They also have an affiliated travel rewards program and some CE credit.”
̶ Jeremy Anderson, OD, Alexandria, Minn., member The Alliance Optical Medical Supply and Buying Group

“Ease of bill paying and the built-in discount is a win-win situation dealing with one in-house person who can run interference with any of these suppliers. My Block account number is 500, so I’ve been around awhile, practically since they first started.”
̶ Paul Glaser, Captree Opticians, Babylon, NY, member Block Buying Group

“We have regional meetings, discounts, IDOC University, free webinars, free CE, all for a yearly fee. If you buy just one piece of equipment a year, the IDOC membership is paid for by the discount, so essentially I’ve had my membership paid for probably fifty times over.”
̶ Steve Silberberg, OD, An Eye to the Future, Matawan, N.J., member Independent Doctors of Optometric Care (IDOC)

“Among the biggest benefits are webcasts—practice building, staff building, practice management, coding and billing, benchmarking. Coding and billing we’ve paid attention to lately, and benchmarking we always did on an executive level but we’re now sharing with our eight offices throughout the state to help improve their productivity.”
̶ Troy D. Raber, OD, Halpern Eye Care, Dover, Del., member OD Excellence

“Being a solo practitioner with a fairly large practice, it’s difficult for me because I don’t have anybody to talk to with the same size practice, so the personal benefit I’m looking for is meeting with a group of my peers.”
̶ Mary Lou French, OD, Med, FAAO, Children’s Eyecare, PC, Orland Park, Ill., member Prima Eye Group

“I didn’t think I’d be talking with Dr. Gailmard personally, but he spent about an hour with me talking about my practice and helping me become a better manager, something we didn’t learn in optometry school.”
̶ Karen Higashi-Reynolds, OD, Mountain Shadows Vision Center, Colorado Springs, Colo., member Prima Eye Group

“We’ve been involved with PEN probably 20 years now, and the big thing for us was coming out of school, opening a practice and getting better pricing. One thing I liked about PEN also was the training. If I hire a new optician, I send them to class right off the bat. I appreciate their support of independent practitioners.”
̶ Edwin Liu, OD, Foothill Optometric Group, Pleasonton, Calif., member Primary Eyecare Network (PEN)

“Even though in one particular case we saved $30,000 on $100,000, the biggest advantage is not just the ability to save money through partnerships with vendors. The focus of PECAA is to make us be better business owners and help us run the business.”
̶ Cory W. Manley, OD, COVD, Pasco Vision Clinic, Pasco, Wash., member Professional Eye Care Associates of America (PECAA)

“The network of information sharing between top practices in the country is invaluable. The power’s in the numbers. In declining reimbursements, it’s more crucial than ever to offset your costs. We ECPs have to work together.”
̶ Ryan Halpern, OD, Halpern Eye Care, Dover, Del., member Professional Eyecare Resources Co-op (PERC)

“The obvious advantage is the discount. We do probably 75 percent of our frame buying through buying groups, and I do almost all of my lab purchases through Villavecchia. They have been instrumental in arranging for certain courses for us for credits, and we get into Vision Expo through the buying group also.”
̶ Rich Hogg, Northern Valley Opticians, Closter, N.J., member Villavecchia Buying Group

“Opening a practice cold about five years ago, the biggest benefit was getting outstanding pricing on new equipment. More importantly, the built-in network of local and national doctors willing to share information and brainstorm and help each other out opened up a whole new world for us.”
̶ Elizabeth C. McMunn, OD, Advanced Eyecare, LLC, East Lyme, Conn., member Vision Source

“Having to pay just one bill at the end of the month makes my life much easier. I don’t have to make sure I paid my twenty vendors because Vision West takes care of that. They’re strong supporters of independent optometry. They sponsor my local optometric meetings and some pretty informative practice management meetings.”
̶ Carrie Lee, OD, Eyedentity Vision Optometry, San Francisco, member Vision West

“The consolidation of vendors and bill paying, that’s Villavecchia in a nutshell. They also came to Massachusetts and did dinner and continuing education to reward members for their loyalty. You’re dealing with another small business, a family-run business, so you get to actually talk to the owners.”
̶ William Eichhold, owner, Brighton Optical, Brighton, Mass., member Villavecchia Buying Group