TAMPA, Fla.—The mission statement of Sight360 sums up the group’s approach to eyecare succinctly and soundly: complete vision care. And then the subheading brings the philosophy of the eyecare group into sharper focus: “We are building West Central Florida’s premier destination for fully-integrated ophthalmology, medical optometry and optical retail services.”

Sight360, a recently formed Florida-based practice management group, is one example of the efforts that some eyecare organizations are making today to develop a patient-friendly model of care that stretches along the continuum of care, from routine vision care to more complicated treatment regimens and surgical procedures.

Sight360 launched about one year ago with private equity backing from California-based Spanos Barber Jesse (SBJ) as Clear Sight Partners, and the organization is now in the midst of changing its name and rebranding under the Sight360 name. The company debuted in late 2020 as the fruition of a partnership between seven eyecare organizations with 16 locations to collectively form one of the largest vertically integrated vision care providers in the West and Central Florida area.

In addition to the 16 vision care clinics, Sight360 has 15 optometrists and nine ophthalmologists seeing about 100,000 patients. There are more than 180 team members overall.

The rebranding and name change were driven, in part, by the effort to better align the group under its mission. (The seven legacy brands are Pasadena Eye Center, Pasadena Surgery Center, Eye Associates of Pinellas, Gulf Coast Retina Services, Ryczek Eye Associates, Vision Specialty Associates and Opti-mart.)

“We decided that we wanted to have more of an aspirational brand to better define what we’re trying to do,” chief executive officer Brian Hauser told Vision Monday in a recent interview. “The Sight360 brand is the one that the shareholders, the legacy practice owners and the leadership team thought resonated the best of the many that were vetted.”

He added, “I continue to use the term [vision ecosystem] when I speak to people as a way to explain what it is that we’re doing. Such that, no matter how the patient enters, we’ve got a place to be able to provide eyecare.”

Hauser noted that Sight360 is putting together eyecare practices in a way that’s similar to what EyeCare Partners (ECP) of St. Louis is working toward in building out its model for integrated eyecare. “That’s a much larger scale of what we’re trying to do, but it’s the same principle,” he noted.

Somewhat similarly to the ECP model, Sight360 also is working to integrate physician-run and/or family-owned businesses, which requires listening and learning skills on the part of management, as well as a deft touch and cautious approach. “You think you know where you’re going and you want to get there, but you’ve got to make sure that you’re not getting there too fast,” Hauser said. The situation was complicated by the COVID pandemic, which placed even more hurdles in the way of adapting to new processes and systems.

This new name and branding is one of the first things that patients are seeing from the new organization that represents a change to what they had been accustomed. But Sight360 has been working behind the scenes on other areas of the organization to improve its offerings to patients and to expand eyecare services. For example, Sight360 recently converted a classic optical retail store into a medical optometry location, Hauser noted. In addition to expanding the number of exam lanes (from four exam rooms to eight), the office now has more medical equipment—including OCT scanners—to enable more medical based optometry. In addition, two optometrists were moved from another clinic to run the new medical optometry location.

“We just launched that earlier this month (late October in St. Petersburg), and it’s off to a great start,” Hauser said. By moving to a “medical optometry” format, the doctors at the practice are now providing more than a comprehensive eye exam and are treating a variety of conditions that typically wouldn’t be seen in a more traditional retail optometry location, he said. (This might also tie in with whether the provider is credentialed on a medical plan in addition to a vision care plan.)

He added, “We’re not sure that we’re going to turn all of our legacy optical retail locations into medical optometry locations. [But] many of the optometrists coming out of optometry school are looking to do what they were trained on, and that is a little more medical optometry. So there is an interest and a desire among some of our younger optometrists to be able to do more [medical optometry]. We have to decide where that makes sense in our hub and spoke model.”

Since its launch about one year ago, Sight360 has hired additional optometrists, an ophthalmologist and a glaucoma specialist. “And we are continuing to actively recruit in all those areas,” Hauser said.

Acknowledging that other practice management groups, too, are attempting to develop the optimum integrated eyecare model, Hauser said he believes the true measure of success will come down to execution. “Who can execute? Who can hire the right people? Who can put the policies and procedures in place that create a culture where people want to work and to stay? And who can determine the right KPIs to measure growth?” he asked rhetorically.

He added, “We as the leadership team [at Sight360] try to talk about being more of a support team and supporting what’s going on in the field. … We also [develop] a lot of pilots and a lot of test-and-learner situations before we try to implement an idea. We’re not a speedboat like these individual practices used to be, when they could just turn on a dime. We’re also not a battleship, like some of the bigger groups. We just have to make sure the decisions we make are vetted and that we don’t fall into the trap of what sounds good in the conference room has no possibility of being executed in the field. That’s really the litmus test.”

Sight360 is “in high-growth mode and … actively seeking new partnership opportunities with like-minded vision care practices in the Greater Tampa Bay area,” the organization has noted. Hauser said the group has a number of prospective practice additions in the pipeline, “and we’re just trying to work through a couple and close on a couple others.”