(L to R) Vision Source executives attending the news conference included Amir Koshnevis, OD, Jim Greenwood, Alysia Gradney, Jeff Duncan, Paul Williams, OD, FAOO, Glenn Ellisor, OD, and Randy Sones.
ANAHEIM, Calif.—Vision Source kicked off its annual Exchange conference under sunny skies here earlier this week with expectations that about 3,300 members and their staff would converge on the Anaheim Convention Center to hear about new programs the group is launching this year and to socialize with fellow franchisees. Vision Source executives provided the details on two of the new initiatives that are under way at a news conference on Thursday morning: Vision Source Next, a program designed to facilitate the opening of new Vision Source locations, and a newly launched exclusive network to monitor ocular side effects among patients being treated for multiple sclerosis. The latter program will come under the umbrella of My Treatment Monitor, a health care initiative addressing chronic conditions that launched at The Exchange.

Vision Source founder and executive chairman Glenn Ellisor, OD, noted that, upon Vision Source’s founding 27 years ago, the objective was to “unite independent optometry” and to offer marketing and practice-management programs that helped members grow their practices. “Since we’ve been tracking [growth] around the turn of the century, our members have always significantly outpaced the rest of the industry in terms of the growth of their offices,” Ellisor said at a press conference on Thursday. “In fact last year, our offices grew an average of 6 percent in a relatively flat market.”

Looking to the future, Vision Source executives also talked about enhancing the OD mentoring program under Vision Source member Kristin O’Brien, OD, who is the Mentor OD lead, and the group’s effort to respond to practice “aggregators” who are consolidating private practices under a corporate or management group umbrella.

Among the objectives of the Vision Source Next program is to open up to 10 new practices in the Dallas/Fort Worth area before the end of the year. Jim Greenwood, president and chief executive officer, outlined the approach of the new program at a news conference on Thursday morning. “What we are launching, Vision Source Next, is an effort to market to the younger ODs who are working in a commercial setting today, [and who are] 25 to 35 years old. [We want] to build a pipeline of those young ODs and allow them to transition into independent optometry with confidence,” he said.

He added, “Vision Source Next, in a nutshell, is trying to help optometrists move into independent practice successfully. We are going to provide a lot of muscle to ensure that if they are suited to do that in a strategic market, then we are going to help them be successful.” This includes providing support on everything from picking the location to hiring the staff and outfitting the practice with the right equipment, he said.

The new locations will be “de novo,” or start-up practices. The new locations may be owned by an existing Vision Source member who has wanted to open a new location, but for various reasons has not been able to do this yet. The effort also is a “recruiting initiative on the front end” to build a pipeline of prospective owners and practice associates for independent optometry, Greenwood said.

Vision Source has helped with practice transitions among ODs in the past, Greenwood said, “but it has been rather haphazardly or in a market where one of our administrators has helped somebody do it. This [Vision Source Next] is very organized and we’re going into Dallas-Fort Worth, our first market, and we’re going to open up 10 practices and they’re going to be successful,” he said.

Greenwood noted that Vision Source met with about 60 members who operate practices in north Texas and presented the Vision Source Next concept to them. They were offered the opportunity to participate in the program.
Vision Source will not have any ownership in the new practice locations. A third-party financing source has been identified and it “loves the concept of working with optometrists,” he said.

He said the Dallas-Fort Worth area was chosen to kick off this initiative because it is gaining about 170,000 new residents each year and the market—with a population of roughly 7 million—is currently underserved.