Alternatives for ECPs Seeking to Add, Change or Restructure Practice Ownership

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NEW YORK—Taking the private equity investor route is not the only option for eyecare professionals who want to explore new ownership and equity structures for their practices.

Last month, the Practice Management Center (PMC), Vision One Credit Union and VSP Global teamed up through the website Optometrymatch.com to facilitate business connections and opportunities for ODs looking to buy or sell their practices. The goal of the collaboration is to “make the overall experience a seamless transition,” according to the joint announcement.

Other options also exist, including such group practices as Vision Care Specialists, a doctor-owned entity in Colorado that has brought in two private practice locations under its operating umbrella over the past four months.

Vision Care Specialists is a “provider network” (a health care classification in Colorado), which allows for common ownership of a practice among ophthalmologists and optometrists, chief executive officer Jeff Poe said. “It really is a group of physicians coming together to provide superior eyecare,” Poe told Vision Monday, noting that all of the group’s ECPs are either board certified or pursuing this certification. “We are very committed to the clinical practice of eyecare, and we really want to be able to deliver exceptional medical eyecare in addition to exceptional comprehensive eye exams.”

The group has grown, in part, by accessing bank financing, internal equity or other options. “Almost every deal is unique,” Poe explained.

While many eyecare practices have followed the industry trend of private equity buyouts or have joined franchises and hospital-owned physician groups to gain advantages of scale, Vision Care Specialists said it believes strongly in physician-defined standards of care, which help drive the philosophy and operating principles of the group. This dedication to an independent medical practice model allows investment in state-of-the-art technologies and the “continual pursuit of the latest in eyecare science and technology.”

Vision Care Specialists, founded in 1974 in Aurora, Colo., has 19 ODs and MDs among its staff and was the first private group of surgeons in Denver to offer laser cataract procedures.

Poe added, “We know as a company that the future of health care is tied to outcomes. So we want to be able to document clinically that we are following the latest and the greatest in clinical thinking.”

For those ECPs who are more interested in making a practice purchase, the new Optometrymatch.com tool may be of more interest.

“Purchasing a practice can be a challenging experience for doctors,” PMC chief executive officer Mark Wright, OD, said last month upon the launch of the new service. “Similarly, selling a practice can also be an overwhelming experience for retiring doctors. Our goal is to make the process smooth for both sides, which will in turn help ensure the future success and growth of independent optometry.”

The founders of Optometrymatch.com describe the service as a “starting point” for ECPs who are in the market to buy or sell part or all of a practice. Doctors can utilize the tool by registering on the secure website. PMC then implements its “Smart Match” model to match the doctor with a buyer, seller or practice that meets the specified criteria. “Once a match is made, PMC works closely with the doctors, providing support and consultation throughout the practice transition process,” the company said.