The Patient Experience, Boosted by New Tech and Investment, Tops MyEyeDr.'s 2020 Plans


NEW YORK—Beginning its next chapter, armed with the investment and health care perspectives from its new financial partner at Goldman Sachs, MyEyeDr. (MED) is viewing the future as one which will amplify its efforts to put the patient experience front and center. Its leadership team is poised to employ technology in a range of ways, from those that streamline and make patient service more actionable, to an approach that further develops professional paths for its optometrists and raises vision care’s profile and awareness among patients and other provider groups in the health care field.

These top line priorities, for the near and longer term, were discussed in an exclusive interview with VM by Sue Downes, MyEyeDr.’s CEO, along with Jo Natauri, global head of heath care investing for Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division, outlining the opportunity for both companies. In a deal that was announced in June and closed last August, Goldman Sach’s MBD acquired Capital Vision Services LP, which provides management services to MyEyeDr.’s optometry practices, from its previous investors, Altas and Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ). Details of the transaction were not disclosed, however The Wall Street Journal cited sources that valued the deal at $2.7 billion, including debt.

As of the end of 2019, according to Downes, MyEyeDr. finished an active year, operating 571 offices, and generating estimated revenues of $775 million, with practices in 26 states. (The company entered seven new states in 2019 and added 136 new practices in that time.) The company will continue to partner with practices in the recently expanded geographies of Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Michigan and Wisconsin, Downes said, noting that MED plans its first office in New York City in 2020. Downes said, “We’ve always emphasized that we are not really a ‘practice exit’ strategy. MyEyeDr. is unique in our approach to committing to invest only in the best practices, it’s really a practice transition approach. The world is changing fast and we are building a new profile in vision care for patients.”

MyEyeDr. began in 2001, with a few offices in the Washington D.C./Virginia metro area. It expanded for several years and at the time of the Altas/CDPQ investment in 2015, the group had grown to 165 practices in seven states supporting affiliated independent MyEyeDr. optometrists and their practices with a complete array of financial, marketing, human resources, and accounting services, along with managed care credentialing and claims processing. The offices offer patients personalized eyecare services, a selection of prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses, and standard and specialty contact lenses.

Increasingly, MyEyeDr.’s 987 optometrists, the current count today, are also offering a range of specialty eye health services and are elevating new training and leadership programs, according to Artis Beatty, OD, MED’s chief medical officer (see sidebar, page 13).

Said Downes, “We had long talked about the long-term investor, engaging patients in a modern experience, embracing innovation and digital, improving the supply chain and arming our marketing messages, for us and for the industry. We had great partners at Altas and Caisse but we needed to take our expertise and capabilities to a new level. When Goldman came to us and gave us a complete presentation about what they’d been studying about the industry and what they’d learned about us, explaining what they could do, we were blown away. We also wanted to protect the future and legacy of MyEyeDr. and put the patient at the center of it.”

Natauri added, “We identified, nearly two years before we were in the process with Sue, that optometry was a real area of opportunity. It is in line with what we saw in many trends happening throughout the health care space. There’s a greater consciousness about cost, about how primary care can bring a greater patient experience. And optometry encounters patients’ health issues early. With the advent of technology, consumers will be making more of their own decisions, interacting with doctors and practices in new ways. Through all of health care, we have to be able to deliver outcomes to patients and there will be a big sea change in referring patients for care overall. We saw that what MyEyeDr. had achieved and the scale they achieved lends itself to that future health care perspective more than any other platform out there. Enabling optometrists to practice to the scope of their license, not just offering retail solutions, but the combination of both—we’re very excited about that balance.”

Downes emphasized, “Our expansion and the future with Goldman is not just about having financial success or more locations. It’s a tremendous step up with their technology know-how and contacts that will enable us to continue to perfect the patient experience. Even though at MyEyeDr. since day one, we envisioned making the tasks of practice management easier, our optical business has become very complex. Patients today want a quicker and more seamless experience, they want to communicate and schedule and explore when it makes sense for them. We need to take a step back to serve it up in a more meaningful way to the consumers.”

In terms of the MyEyeDr. offices in 2020 and beyond, Downes and her team will explore the patient portal concept, including omni-channel and “endless aisle” options, as well as digital try-on, when it makes sense. There will be the testing of new physical store concepts as well as those that marry digital to patient experience.

Said Downes, “We are thinking about every square foot and how can we utilize real estate in a more meaningful way to focus on the patient. As you know the front desks of optometrist offices have taken up quite a bit of real estate over the years and the lab has traditionally been tucked away and out of sight. We are transforming the lab\front desk\administrative areas together and into more of a processing center that feels more like an open kitchen —so the patients can be engaged and the space becomes more user friendly for the team to stay connected to the patient.”

From a marketing/messaging point of view, the company will be examining and testing new concepts and partners in that arena, too, Downes said, likely to be seen in the second half of this year. “We will be launching a new website that will have components of our vision of omni-channel, as well as the patient portal concept to make it not only easier for the patient to do business with us, but have them more engaged in understanding their eye health visit, selecting and making their eyewear purchases.”

Emphasized Natauri about Goldman Sachs MBD, “We are not operators. In its simplest form, we are providing capital to make businesses better. Across our entire portfolio, in health care and other categories, too, we can convene top experts, and strategically or tactically advise how to manage digital technology in the best way, a realm which is changing to unbelievably fast. We provide access to growth, always in collaboration with the management team.”

Along with a group of local and regional manager groups throughout the organization, the MyEyeDr. senior leadership team is composed of industry and functional experts all of whom have deep expertise in their respective areas and bring vast experience spanning health care, retail, operations, practice management, various best-in-class service businesses, and admirable brands that have themselves had much successful growth—such as CVS, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, DaVita and Enterprise, to name a few, Downes pointed out.

Most recently, the team grew with the addition of a general counsel, Dave Wolff, and a chief information and digital officer, Bill Tingle. In addition, Downes said, “One of our well-known industry experts, Angela McCoy, has a senior leadership role role overseeing all field operations and related support teams, including integrations. Her passion for the MyEyeDr. brand, expertise and increasing areas of responsibility over the past few years will enable her to work in close partnership with Dr. Beatty, and his clinical leadership team, to deliver strategic innovations.

“They will work with our senior team to bring a disciplined approach to practice management, and hard-to-replicate infrastructure and operational processes that will enable more efficient and effective operations and a revered associate, patient and doctor experience.”