NEW YORK—Experts in the science of customer behavior—a data-driven approach used by marketers to analyze and predict what and why we buy—conducted a master class for attendees of Vision Monday’s Global Leadership Summit, held at the Times Center on Wednesday. The day-long conference, the theme of which was “Decoding the Consumer,” featured leading analysts and thought leaders from both the retail and health care sectors. They offered fresh insights about the trends and tactics that are shaping businesses decision making.

Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services, Jobson Medical Information, greeted attendees and presented a powerful case for data as “the currency of our new, fourth industrial revolution,” noting a key trend to watch is “data for money:” the transfer of money to the consumer who in exchange provides some form of valuable data. He also mentioned the potential of the mixed delivery model to provide a wealth of new opportunities in the optical industry, which has only begun to embrace “brick and click.”

Marge Axelrad, senior vice president and editorial director of Vision Monday, spoke about the need for businesses to successfully understand, anticipate and respond to the new dynamic of “patient as consumer,” and how as connected consumers are becoming more engaged about their personal health, they are also seeking a new experience, including on-demand relationships with health care providers.

In an informative keynote presentation, global retail expert Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of Coresight Research, offered a detailed look at how the cross-currents of retail and technology are shaping the customer experience, and what that means for retailers, suppliers and health care companies.

In her keynote, Weinswig painted a big picture about the health of retail today, saying “sales in December were not what we expected, either in the way of online or offline shopping.” She said that according to store closing tracker “some 4,810 stores had already closed in 2019.”

She then advised store owners to “reshape your physical space.” She urged retailers to take a chance and try something new with their stores. “Build a strong brand and make it fun for customers to shop your brand. Pop-ups are the future because they drive excitement.”

Weinswig then segued into a panel discussion about tactics and tools for decoding consumer behavior which she moderated. The panelists were David Hoodis, CEO of Mood Media; Karl Haller, partner with IBM’s Consumer Industry Center of Competency; Nevin Raj, co-founder and COO, Grata Data, and Heike Young, senior manager, industry strategy and insights, Salesforce.

Haller said retailers need to learn to tap into the data they already have. “They aren’t doing enough with metrics and dashboards to analyze the data they’ve already collected. It’s a quick win to pull from the data sources you already possess.”

Hoodis pointed to Walmart as an example of a retailer that has reinvented itself, several times over. “Is Walmart a tech company? Yes it is. They have a legacy of reinventing themselves by making tough decisions and taking action. Complacency is what is killing some companies today.”

Raj said “We analyze a lot of customer reviews. We’re seeing a change in focus from actual products or services to customer service. For example, with Warby Parker, we see a lot of the feedback is around customization.”

As for today’s data, he said “it’s important to change your mindset. If data is part of your strategy, a lot of times it’s a second cost center. I would ask you to flip this upside down think of yourselves as curating an experience for lifestyle segment that allows you to put data first.”

Young predicted, “physical retail is far from dead. At the same time, physical retail is finding its feet in this new retail era. It offers experiences you can’t find anywhere else. Look at Shinola in Detroit. It’s an amazing brand, created in Detroit. What Shinola really does in the phusical space is a loyalty experience driven by Salesforce, but driven in the store. When you talk to a salesperson in store, you are given a VIP experience. You can only sign up for it in the store.”

In the morning’s second keynote, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist, trend analyst, consultant and influential blogger, offered her take on the convergence of retail and health care. She identified new players and business models such as the recent CVS-Aetna merger, and described the powerful forces that are reshaping patients into health consumers.

This new model of health convergence—which involves a melding of health, health care (payors and providers) and retail health—is moving beyond the old model of “retail health,” which basically consisted of the “pharmacy” department of a drugstore, Sarasohn-Kahn noted in her presentation.

She noted how, in October 2018, CVS Health acquired the insurer Aetna, which has sped up the transformation of what “retail health” will mean going forward. “This [combination] is retail health, I assure you,” she said. “But this isn’t just going to be a pharmacy.” CVS Health is going to be “reinventing and reimagining” what a pharmacy is going to be, she added.

She was followed by Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, president and CEO, New England College of Optometry, who helped attendees extract valuable ideas from Weinswig and Sarasohn-Kahn’s presentations. Together with Ann Hoscheit, OD, FAAO, Dave Brown, president and CEO of IDOC and James Rosin, co-president of Rosin Eyecare, he explored the topics in the keynote presentations and discussed how attendees can take away actionable ideas and information from the Summit that will help them compete in this new customer- and patient-centric environment.

Brown encouraged providers to “meet patients where they want to be met,” and on their timetable; to interact with the patient/consumer more, and consistently, around their need for eyecare and quality eyewear by producing valuable educational and style content and sharing it on a well-maintained website and social media. He noted the value in having patients more learn from their own eyecare provider(s), not other sources, and to personalize your practice’s digital presence with accessible elements like staff profiles and engaging office photos.

Dr. Hoscheit emphasized the importance of a consistent experience at all levels in the practice, with key goals to “hire right, train well, and engage our employees” to deliver the best experience for patients and staff. She opined that providers should be “leaning retail,” and noted the opportunities afforded by patient engagement tools, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) opportunities abound for this purpose and also in the back office. She, along with Brown and James Rosin, all stressed the need to honor privacy and protect all patient data.

Per Rosin, “where the consumer wants to be is where we need to be” including safe and responsible online refraction, the ability to shop online and face chat with providers for advice. With the frequency of patient visits approximately once every 25 to 27 months, he noted the value of using data to help shorten that cycle and—using education and engagement—to encourage receipt of care in alignment with both need and insurance coverage, to increase eyewear purchasing.

Dr. Purcell noted that in a rapidly evolving landscape which includes telemedicine, clinicians need to effectively “co-bot:” leveraging the appropriate blend of human and robot capabilities to meet the expectations of the “paysumer” while delivering the highest quality of care.

In the afternoon, Andrew Karp, group editor, lenses and technology for the Jobson Optical Group, explained why consumers need to be aware of who has access to our personal data, and why companies need to adopt ethical guidelines for collecting, using and selling customers’ data. He explained how blockchain, a rapidly emerging and potentially game-changing technology, can be an important tool for making data more secure, portable and accessible for businesses, health care groups and consumers.

A deeper dive into blockchain followed, led by Jill Malandrino, global markets reporter for Nasdaq, who explained some fundamental concepts about the technology and its uses.

Malandrino kicked off the discussion of blockchain by trying to simplify the technology with a comparison to a computer operating system that records and stores transactions. She noted that if one thinks of blockchain as akin to an operating system, there are innumerable processes or applications (even bitcoin and cryptocurrency) that can be operated as apps on this operating system.

“Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on the blockchain network, reducing risk, cutting costs and improving transparency,” she explained.

She then introduced two blockchain experts, IBM’s Janine Grasso, vice president, strategy, operations and ecosystem development for blockchain, and Roger Smith, chief technology officer, AdventHealth Nicholson Center. Grasso discussed the business and health care applications of blockchain.

Grasso explained that the technology behind blockchain is not new, but rather “has been around for ages.” She added, “The way it is applied [today] has obviously changed the landscape on how we can bring industry players together.” IBM has successfully tested Blockchain internally in its financing business unit in an effort to simplify dispute resolution.

Smith described how blockchain can work in a health care setting, and how providers and patients can benefit from it. He presented a number of health care use cases for blockchain, including the pharmaceutical supply chain, clinical trials, billing and claims management and electronic health records.

Roger Smith, chief technology officer, AdventHealth Nicholson Center, said he believes that a year ago there was consensus around using blockchain to handle protected patient data, but this year that thinking has changed. “This year, nobody will ever say that,” he noted. “Why is that? Because of the European laws around GDPR.”

The next speaker, Dr. John Whyte, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for WebMD, explained how the health care landscape is changing, and so are patient expectations. He identified several key factors that are influencing today’s health care consumer, such as 24/7 access to information, rising health care costs and the shift to value-based care.

“WebMD’s mission is to live better by empowering decisions to improve their well-being. We see that the consumer is changing. They want 24-hour access to information. And with rising health care costs we’ve seen a shift to value-based care. Today technology is shortening the path to care and the rate of medical knowledge is increasing among patients.”

Dave Bovenschulte, vice president, strategy for Klick Health and Justine Santa Cruz, senior vice president of enterprise and retail for Satisfi Labs discussed how their companies are using voice technology and smart speakers to interact with consumers and patients and create more engaging experiences. They offered examples of how voice tech can be applied within the eyecare industry to help with eyewear selection, serve as an in-office assistant and with AI diagnosis.

“The efficiency of voice search really can’t be beat,” Bovenschulte noted. Additionally, Santa Cruz emphasized that retail isn’t dead, there are in fact certain areas that are “booming.” Voice is just another tool to enhance customer experience and engage them as well. “People are working really hard to reinvent retail. There are many brands out there that are making genuine connections with people,” she added.

In the final Summit session, “Turning Data Wealth into Patient Health,” Amy Heymans (Cueva), founder and chief experience officer for Mad*Pow, spoke about the unique methods her company uses when working with health care clients. Mad*Pow’s methods draw upon design concepts and motivational psychology to help patients achieve greater health and wellness, financial wellbeing, education, and sustainability.

“Data tells us what is going on. But we don’t necessarily know why it’s happening,” said Heymans. “To develop truly unique experiences that thrill customers, we embrace a systematic approach fueled by deep empathy and an understanding of behavior, directly aligned with business goals, and hyper-aware of organizational dynamics.”

She noted that “changing real-world behaviors” is central to addressing the key challenges facing both society and business, expanding on this to note that in health care, external motivation is often not enough to incentivize patients toward healthier lifestyles; intrinsic, autonomous shifts are required for long-lasting behavior change.
When developing platforms for good and services delivery, Heymans said “the digital ‘thing” has to be beautiful, useful and usable, but that’s not enough… it has to be a great experience overall, to get behaviors to change in the real world.” She emphasized the need to optimize not only the various “touch points” consumers engage with, but also, inside your organization.

John Ryan, the recently named general manager of UnitedHealthcare Vision, said he has been impressed during his initial round of meetings with partners and executives at other companies in the vision care business.

“This is an incredibly collaborative industry,” said Ryan, who became involved with UnitedHealthcare’s managed vision care just nine months ago. “Coming from the medical side, where everyone is a competitor, this is a little different.” He also noted that UnitedHealthcare is working toward raising its net promoter scores into the 70 range, which he acknowledged will be a challenge.

Heymans and Ryan then joined Dave Bovenschulte, Justine Santa Cruz and Roger Smith in a wide ranging conversation about the ways data is being used to connect patients, providers, settings and systems that was moderated by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and Dr. John Whyte.

Patient trust and privacy were key considerations throughout the panel, with all acknowledging the importance of these two factors in healthcare especially. Sarasohn-Kahn asked whether it was possible to “design trust into our interactions;” Bovenschulte noted that this goes hand in hand with instilling a sense of control in patients, especially with regard to how they access data. With a privacy protection net in the U.S. akin to a “patchwork quilt,” surprise bills from insurance carriers, and cyber breaches, panelists parsed how to “corral respect back;” patients need to trust providers in order to share the full story about their lifestyles so we can treat them as a “whole patient.”
Heymans noted that interoperability can falls short of expectations in real-world execution, and the opportunity to enhance care and improve outcomes by, for example, decreasing friction around accessing a patient’s EHR quickly and securely.

When designing new apps for eyecare patient/consumers, Santa Cruz said “we need to put something out there that asks “what can we do for you” in order to design properly and create frictionless experiences that serve needs and wants, thus yielding the desired outcome for both the user and the provider, noting that Satisfi receives explicit permission for all data acquisition and use. Heymans recommended designing with the goal of creating a system that demonstrates it is “looking out for patients” by combining, for instance, health monitoring technology with a human response and solution.

Regarding progress in Experience Innovation, Bovenschulte acknowledged that a magnitude of powerful data is being collected, but many are still struggling to gain meaningful, actionable insights from it. Santa Cruz noted that AI offers powerful opportunities to free customer service agents from rote inquiries and empower them to problem solve at a higher level, while Heymans praised its potential for clinicians to bring more empathy to the doctor’s office visit.

Roger Smith, chief technology officer, AdventHealth Nicholson Center, said he believes that a year ago there was consensus around using blockchain to handle protected patient data, but this year that thinking has changed. “This year, nobody will ever say that,” he noted. “Why is that? Because of the European laws around GDPR.”

Platinum sponsors of the VM Global Leadership Summit were Essilor and Luxottica. The Gold sponsors were GPN:The Edge, Healthy Eyes Advantage and Think About Your Eyes. Silver sponsors were ABS Smart Mirror, Alcon, CareCredit, Hoya, Ocuco and VSP Global.

This is a topline report on #VMSummit. Look for a more detailed report and highlight videos in the April issue of Vision Monday.