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  April 3, 2013

Katzen Eye Group Grows 'Exponentially' Due to New Startups and a 'Three O's' Philosophy

By John Sailer

Located in Abingdon, Md., Katzen Eye Group's Bel Air location is one of two opened in the Baltimore region in 2011.

BALTIMORE—Over the past 18 months, Katzen Eye Group has been experiencing "exponential growth," according to CEO Richard C. Edlow, OD. While he credits much of that to the addition of two full-service locations in 2011, he also feels that a 28.7 percent increase in same store sales in the first quarter of 2013 is simply a result of "doing all the right things."

This includes being a part of the "three O's market" by operating four locations that each offer general ophthalmology, optometry and optical dispensing on a daily basis all under one roof, with retinal, pediatric and other subspecialties rotating as needed.

Katzen Eye Group's optical dispensing alone grew by 13 percent in the first quarter of this year. "I believe we will see more and more expansion and consolidations in the three O's market," Edlow predicted.

This multi-disciplinary philosophy can be traced all the way back to when Katzen Eye Group was founded about 30 years ago. "We were fortunate enough to have both an OD and an MD with no political axe to grind," Edlow said about Katzen's founder, Leeds Katzen, MD, FACS, who learned appreciation and respect for optometry from his uncle, Joe Fox, OD.

CEO Edlow traces his own involvement in multidisciplinary practices to an article he wrote in 1983, "Interprofessional Optometry," for the Journal of the American Optometric Association with a former Pennsylvania College of Optometry classmate, Scott A. Edmonds, OD.

A more recent development regarding multidisciplinary practices Edlow cites is the Integrated Ophthalmic-Managed Eyecare Delivery model (IOMED), an educational program to advance an eyecare delivery model based on a synergistic collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology. (See VMail: American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Offers Program to Synergize Optometrists and Ophthalmologists)

While continuing to follow a "three O's" philosophy, Katzen Eye Group's dramatic 47 percent growth in sales in 2012 Edlow credits to the company's expansion over the past couple of years. "Growth has been most significant in the last two years," Edlow told dba, as the result of two new startups in the Baltimore region led by doctors with followings in the area. While 10 percent of that growth is attributed to organic same store sales, 37 percent is due to the new locations and practitioners.

While "odds are that we will continue along that kind of path" of adding more full service locations, Edlow said that the optical group will wait until certain multiple-location operational issues are worked out. For example, rather than each location housing its own computer servers, Katzen Eye Care has consolidated all of its electronic health records (EHR) in a server farm centrally located to all of its offices. "Instead of us housing servers, we now have a secure centralized location in Baltimore that essentially creates a cloud computing center for us," Edlow explained.

Now, with 24/7 HIPAA-compliant access to patient records from any computer anywhere in the world, it "allows us to provide the best care for the patient without having to go all over the place."

Katzen Eye Group selected the software it uses, NextGen, based on its ability to manage all three O's as well as multiple location practices. "NextGen works well for both optometry and ophthalmology," Edlow said, "and it also has an Optik component for inventory and order tracking, all of which interfaces with practice management and the medical record system."

Implementing EHR is just one of the efficiencies that have contributed to Katzen's ability to expand. "Using paper records did not lend itself to a smooth transition of care from one location to another or from one provider to another," Edlow observed. "The fact that we have all this electronically has allowed us to grow more efficiently."

It's improving efficiencies in this way and in other ways that Edlow feels will contribute to future growth. This is based on his observations of changes in both patient demographics as well as to the makeup of the eyecare professionals who serve them.

"The biggest factor that will contribute to our future success and that of similar practices is the changing and increasing demand for optical services," he told dba. "Aging as well as changing ethnicities will create increasing glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy, and it is incumbent upon us to provide more efficient ways of providing those services."

He added that because of very slight growth anticipated in the number of practicing ophthalmologists and optometrists, this will require that providers "create efficiencies and economies of scale to provide patient care."

Continuing to improve efficiencies and being a part of the "three O's market," Edlow believes, will ensure Katzen Eye Group's success into the future.


Katzen Eye Group's Lutherville/Towson office in Lutherville, Md., was established in 1984.

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