For the first time since its inception 14 years ago, Vision Monday held the opening session of its Global Leadership Summit on a virtual platform due to the pandemic. So it was only fitting that the theme of the four-part, month-long Summit, titled "AFTERSHOCKS: Remaking Healthcare's Future, Vision Beyond 2020," took “attendees” on a quest for answers to the many business challenges and urgent questions facing ECPs and vision care decision makers in light of the virus. If the first session was any indication, Vision Monday more than delivered on its promise to serve up a thought-provoking program and bring together a wide range of noted experts to address big trends and practical tactics in the face of COVID-19. Here is a top-line look at some of the messages.

Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services for Jobson Medical Information, welcomed hundreds of virtual attendees to the event Sept. 30 by summing up the sentiment of the past six months with a quote from what he called Jackson Browne’s vision care industry breakout hit, “Doctor My Eyes.” He observed, “It has often felt like a ‘slow parade of fears’ marching before our eyes since we all last saw each other earlier this year and we have no doubt been asking ourselves ‘have I done all that I could, to see the evil and the good’” admitting that despite our best efforts, it sure hasn’t been easy.

Don’t Miss the Next Two Summit Sessions on Oct. 14 and 21—Register Now

The remaining two Summit sessions will be broadcast on Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Remember, there is still time to register for these two sessions. If you missed the first or second sessions, which aired on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, registered attendees have OnDemand access to these sessions. As part of the Summit registration, attendees will gain access to OnDemand for all sessions, which will be available through Dec. 31, 2020.

Wednesday, October 14: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET
LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM HEALTHCARE’S FRONT LINES What’s Next for Payors, Providers… And Vision Care?
The coronavirus pandemic has stressed hospital and provider systems in unexpected ways, challenging administrators, clinicians and support staff to respond to a crisis that changes almost daily. What have the big healthcare systems learned? How are its lead executives adapting to better meet the challenges?

Speakers will include David Holmberg, president and CEO of Highmark, Inc.; Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health; Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer, WebMD; United Healthcare Vision's CEO, John Ryan and Lori Archer, COO; Inder Singal, MD, Medical Director, Bennett & Bloom Eye Centers, Louisville, Ky.; and Warby Parker’s co-founder Neil Blumenthal.

Wednesday, October 21: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET
STEPPING UP THE PATIENT EXPERIENCE New Tactics & Technologies Take Hold and Transform Engagement

How is technology enabling new ways of connecting to the patient and to the consumer? How is "experience" defined now? What are the components, how are communications, interactivity, decision making and choice impacted? We look at how digital technologies are bringing doctors/patients/ customers into the healthcare process in more exciting ways, blending IRL/physical with online/virtual.

Speakers will include Robin Raskin, founder, Solving for Tech; The MyEyeDr. executive team, including Sue Downes, CEO with Angela McCoy, COO, Artis Beatty, OD, chief medical officer and Christina Perraud, VP of planning and purchasing; New Look Vision Group, including Antoine Amiel, CEO, Jean-Michel Maltais, SVP, Omnichannel, Eric Babin, president of Iris Visual Group and Eric Varady, founder of Topology; Andy Bilinsky, co-founder, CEO of Lensabl; and Annie Hicks, LDO, SeePort Optometry, North Port, Fla. and Jennifer Stewart, OD, partner, Norwalk Eye Care, Norwalk, Conn. and co-founder Performance 20/20 in Stamford, Conn.

The Full Program, registration details and full speakers' information are posted here.

Marc Ferrara

Marge Axelrad

Ferrara urged attendees to “remain open to continuous learning.” He said, “those who routinely and consciously engage in continuous learning become more confident about their ability to sort things out once a crisis hits, according to Beverly Jones, whose track record training executive leaders is very impressive. Jones believes that ‘each time [resilient learners] hit a bump they spend less time lamenting and quickly turn to determining what they must learn in order to climb out of the hole.’”

Ferrara also took a few moments to thank the sponsors of the Summit. Platinum Sponsors: Essilor, Luxottica and VSP Global. Gold sponsors are CareCredit, Ocuco, Think About Your Eyes and The Vision Council. The Silver Sponsor is Alcon.

Next, Marge Axelrad, SVP and editorial director of Vision Monday, kicked off the opening session titled “Can Consumers Trust Our Healthcare Delivery System?” by saying “Our opening session addresses how the pandemic has laid bare many cracks in our healthcare system. Developments have left many consumers and patients feeling disconnected, distrustful and scared and we’ll examine very new information about how their attitudes have changed in this past year.”

Axelrad emphasized there was a need to rebuild trust and re-engage. “We are in a critical moment when healthcare leaders must pivot and reimagine their business, a process that will likely continue in the months and years ahead. It’s time to rethink healthcare and its relationship to the eye health and retail components of vision care,” she said.

The Big Pandemic Picture From WebMD’s Dr. John Whyte
The session began with a powerful presentation from WebMD’s chief medical officer Dr. John Whyte, who has interviewed more than 200 health care experts, cultural icons and other influencers as part of his Coronavirus in Context video series on the WebMD site. To gain answers and insights into the pandemic, his interview subjects have run the gamut from infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to financial guru Suze Orman.

Dr. Whyte observed that several themes emerged from the series of video interviews. “The first is that data are not black and white. They’re gray. By that I mean, it’s not always clear what the right conclusion is from looking at the evidence. So early on, we thought everyone didn’t need a mask and then based on more evidence, we realized masks and facial coverings play a critical role in stopping the spread. Making new recommendations in the face of new information is a good thing—and we should celebrate that.”

Dr. John Whyte (l) interviewing Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Whyte reminded attendees that we want leaders to be open-minded to new data and be ready to modify decisions, saying “remember, it’s called the ‘novel’ coronavirus because it’s new, and we are learning as we go.”

He emphasized that we are in the middle of a mental health pandemic as well as an infectious disease pandemic and “it’s impacting every part of our society.” He said, “My physician colleagues, as well as nurses, and pharmacists, and other health professionals are simply exhausted.” In addition, he pointed out that many adults are reporting difficulty sleeping, weight gain (the COVID 15) and increases in alcohol consumption or substance use.

“People are experiencing anxiety over the uncertainty of it all. Feelings of loneliness as a result of the lockdown and social distancing is at the highest recorded levels ever. So we must prepare now to address these issues. We need to help people understand it’s normal to be feeling like this.”

Dr. Whyte said it’s time to celebrate innovation. “Think about it—early this year, we had nothing to help fight COVID. We have had bumps along the way but look what we have developed—numerous rapid diagnostic tests, over 1,300 trials investigating potential therapies for COVID, and at least 5 candidates for vaccine development.” However, he cautioned that “it is critically important that we have transparency around innovation. Now is not the time to be secretive.”

Finally, Dr. Whyte stressed that the COVID epidemic has changed the health care system permanently. “I think it is being transformed in many positive ways. I think the biggest shift is that we truly are becoming patient-centric. Everything will be viewed in terms of bringing care—literally at times—to the patient rather than the patient having to physically come into a hospital or ambulatory care center.”

Changes in Attitudes From Accenture’s Brad Michel
A Q&A with Jobson’s group editor, lenses & technology, Andrew Karp and Brad Michel, Accenture’s North American Life Sciences’ lead centered around one of the most profound changes in healthcare that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic: the rapid rise of virtual care.

Brad Michel (l) and Andrew Karp.

Karp said, “When we talk about virtual care, many people think of it as having a video consultation with their healthcare provider. While that’s often the case, virtual care also involves remote monitoring, which is especially important for patients with chronic conditions who need to measure and report medical data to their doctors.

"And virtual care can mean patients who self-administer treatments under remote supervision from their doctors,” Karp said. Michel gave attendees a top of the trees look at some of the main findings from the company’s recently released reports canvassing patients’ and healthcare providers’ attitudes since the advent of COVID-19.

• Very understandably, patients were afraid to risk exposure to COVID-19 by going to their healthcare providers for regular treatment, and many—70 percent in fact—deferred or canceled at least some elements of their treatment. Nearly half of all patients reported that they are now getting treatment at home instead of going to their healthcare provider’s office.

• Use of virtual tools increased across the board as patients who switched to at-home treatment during COVID-19 took more advantage of video conference calls, online chat and apps. In doing so, patients used new technologies and they liked them. For example, 40 percent of patients used video conferencing to communicate with their doctor—70 percent of those doing so for the first time—and more than 60 percent rated their experience as good or very good. Overall, 60 percent said they want to use technology to communicate with healthcare providers more in the future.

• Similarly, we saw 4 in 10 start using a new device or app to manage their condition during COVID, and more than 90 percent rated their experience as good or excellent. Ultimately, 9 out of 10 reported the quality of care they received was as good or better than before COVID, citing convenience, quicker responses and more personalized care.

Michel concluded that the relationship between technology and expectations is intriguing. “Whether we realize it or not, we all have a mental baseline for how an experience should work (whether its positive or negative). When it comes to technology, really good technology experiences can change expectations almost overnight (think about Uber, or Starbucks, or AirBnB). Similarly, bad technology experiences get judged quickly and harshly.

“In this case, I think the technology experience was largely positive, and was helped by the conveniences of allowing patients to have 1:1 interaction with their doctors from the comfort of their own home,” Michel said.

The Impact on Healthcare’s Ecosystem From Economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

There are a number of key trends in health care today—shaped primarily by the Covid-19 pandemic—that are impacting the patient and the way in which care is delivered, according to Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a noted health care economist, influencer (Think-Health, Health Populi) and author (“Health Consuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen”), who also spoke on the first day of this year’s four-part Summit.

The first of these trends is the “digitization of the consumer,” Sarasohn-Kahn said, noting that by March of this year “even our most seniorist of citizens were on Zoom” with their families to celebrate their religious holidays.

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Robin Raskin (l) and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn.

Two other important developments across health care, Sarasohn-Kahn noted, are the “DIY-ing” of care among consumers and the transformation of our homes into “health hubs.” The way these changes impact the delivery of care going forward is going to be a crucial to observe.

“In the 2008 recession, DIY became very popular and we saw the rise of Lowe’s and Home Depot,” she said. “We also saw the rise of HGTV and the Food Network… [But] this era of DIY is now driven by YouTube and Instagram. A real thing that has happened during the pandemic is that so many millennials are displaying their sourdough bread on Instagram. This was just a signal to me that more people are doing more at home.”

As a result of the pandemic-driven changes, Sarasohn-Kahn said there are several important “questions or thoughts” for the vision care sector to take away from her session, including how can players across the different services in vision care “insinuate yourself in a person’s home and daily life as part of their health hub?”

A second issue for vision care executives to address, she said, is the “social determinants of health (SDOH) and health disparities.” The challenge for vision care is to determine how they can address the social determinants of health and to identify the channels they should use that are both trusted and available in various population communities.

A follow-up Q&A discussion with Sarasohn-Kahn, led by digital health expert and creator of the CES Digital Health Summit, Robin Raskin, touched upon the overlap and “melding” of what are now virtual and physical communities as a result of the pandemic. Is there still a longing for the physical community that we had?, Raskin asked.

“We are seeing this blurring of the virtual and the physical for self-care and health care that is going to persist now,” Sarasohn-Kahn said, noting that many people “are aching to go back to the community …. but are not so much aching to go back to the doctor, oddly enough.”

Vision Voices: Dr. Michael Kling of San Diego’s Invision Optometry
The first day of the virtual summit closed with Dr. Michael Kling of San Diego’s Invision Optometry providing a “Vision Voice” and an overview of his practice’s experiences reopening after a six-week shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic. One of the most important things that ODs should consider during these times, he noted, is their effort to rebuild and redefine trust with patients, in part by demonstrating safety measures in the office.

Michael Kling, OD

“The first thing that we learned is that we really need to improve our efficiency,” Dr. Kling said. “We had been very good at using technology to deliver care to our patients, but this [pandemic] really forced us to up our game and really utilize the technology to a much higher level.”

He added, “In the past, we had often given our patients choices about some of the technology that we use. But now we really almost mandate it in the practice because it just delivers a touch-less experience and [ensures] that we are providing the best care that we can.”

He also noted the importance of providing an efficient and “frictionless experience” for patients as a way to regain their trust. “Patients are looking for an environment in which they know their time isn’t being wasted and it’s a safe environment” in which that care is being delivered, he said.

Registration Is Still Open for Remaining 2 Summit Sessions

The remaining Summit sessions will be broadcast on Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. If you missed the first two sessions, which aired on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, there is still time to register for the other two sessions. Registration includes all four broadcasts, full access to the Vision Monday Summit virtual platform, networking and messaging lounge, door prizes, and exclusive access to summit attendee only content after the event. Registered attendees will have access to OnDemand for all sessions through Dec. 31, 2020.

Also, a special and growing resource category of reports and pdfs relating to the speakers’ presentations will be available on the virtual platform. Attendees can also visit the sponsor gallery, where you can view a variety of important tools and messages from the Summit’s generous sponsors.

The Full Program, registration details and full speakers' information are posted here.