Erin Byrne (l) and Jason Dorsey
NEW YORK—Business trend analysts, branding experts and health and vision care experts shared their views about how leaders can help their organizations adapt to rapid changes in the “climate” of technology and work at the 12th annual Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit, held at the Times Center here on Wednesday. The day-long Summit program and networking event explored the theme, “workSMART: Leadership Tactics for Transformative Times.” The diverse range of speakers offered insights about how the fast sweep of digital technology, empowered consumers and unexpected competition is reshaping the world of work, and why business leaders of startups or established companies need constant learning, swift tactical moves and organizational resilience.

In his opening remarks, Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services Division, Jobson Medical Information, said the modern business is an “evolving organism,” with changes in workspace design and available technologies fueling the growing telehealth industry and noted companies’ need for an agile team that can thrive within this new work environment by “fostering connections and excitement about work” in addition to embracing new technologies.

Next, Jobson senior vice president and Vision Monday editorial director Marge Axelrad observed most, if not all, of the optical industry is feeling the accelerating pace of change happening in our field. She urged optical colleagues to “latch onto the future” and highlighted “the new killer skill set”—one that is agile, flexible and “prizes learning about what you don’t know on top of what experience has taught you.”

A session about leadership challenges featured Erin Byrne, CEO of GreyHealth Group, who spoke about the intersecting dynamics of technology and health care and the flexibility required by industry leaders. Byrne cited health as “the trend impacting technology,” and stressed that “customer experience needs to be digital, not just include it”—Millennials are seeking out remote medical care as a means to “direct their own care” and consider their well-being as a personal wealth factor. She urged leaders to “operationalize innovation” into all aspects of business and embrace a “partnership perspective” to expand capacity and thinking; and that with doctors increasingly becoming a “secondary source” for Millennial patients that clinicians should “become part of the experience” by supplementing the in-person visit with verified online resources.

She was followed by Jason Dorsey, a leading Millennials and Gen Z researcher and speaker, who talked about solving tough generational challenges for organizations and leaders, with two key factors—parenting and technology—influencing employee behavior and reshaping industries, and “interest and trust” as important drivers for Millennials. He noted that generations “are not a box we fit neatly inside”—but that studying them provides powerful and predictive clues to understand and connect. He noted that Millennials are delaying major life decisions but are also outspending all other generations this year—creating a dynamic of “freedom without responsibility.”

To successfully manage this generation, Dorsey recommended providing specific examples of expected performance, and including visuals wherever possible (photo or video), as well as frequent and succinct “quick hit feedback” to keep Millennials engaged.

Anh Phillips, a researcher and author with Deloitte Services opened a session about “the agile company” with observations about how business leaders can address digital technology’s rapid changes. Phillips is a leading expert on how companies are thinking differently about adapting to digital changes which she referred to as “digital maturity.”

In addition to having a clear strategy she said, “People are the answer to solving this problem. Almost 72 percent of companies don’t think they have the talent they need. But the key is to provide workers with the right opportunities to grow and develop their digital maturity.” Even companies with strong digital leaders will remain ineffective if the culture is not allowing employees to succeed. “Culture is big,” she said.

National Vision CEO Reade Fahs then took the stage to speak about social responsibility and the need for companies to become more collaborative, transparent and responsive to employees and customers. Fahs took the Summit audience through the history of which has provided readers to some 10 million people since its inception in 2003.

He pointed out that “giving back is not just a Millennial thing” and he called on the optical community in the room to work together on improving vision for those in need. “In a sense, we are public health workers and we are in the midst of a public health issue.” Fahs urged the audience to come together in an effort to eliminate the lack of eyeglasses in the world, calling it our “moon shot.”

Next, Vic Puri and Rachel Puri, the founders of WellnessWorks, told the Summit audience about how their New York-based start-up is bringing the idea of co-working to health and wellness practitioners. Vic Puri said currently “doctors are not being served. Starting a private practice is not easy and less than 50 percent of health care professionals are independent.

“Our clients are the agile ones because they get to focus on their patients and worry less about office operations,” he said. The firm offers end to end support including high-end waiting rooms, front-desk reception and online booking. “Basically, you take care of your patients and we take care of the rest,” Vic Puri said.

Two “brand tacticians,” Michael Dorf, founder and CEO of City Winery and retail futurist and pop-up architect Melissa Gonzalez, founder of the The Lion’esque Group, then explained how they have built and helped develop brands that engage customers with new models and experiences that appeal to hyperconnected consumers.

Dorf opened the session “Meet the Brand Tacticians.” He took the audience through the history of wine and music while tying this lesson to the inception of his first City Winery location. Dorf stressed the pricelessness of intimacy for companies in the age where “the mobile phone has become the remote control of our lives.” He left the audience with this sentiment, “Thank God you can’t digitize wine, sperm and eyeglasses.”

Gonzalez educated attendees on the power that pop-up shops have to immerse customers in unique brand experiences while allowing them to promote your brand via social to create “brand evangelists.” She explored the ways in which companies can harness creativity in a brick-and-mortar setting to tell a story.

The rapid rise of telehealth and its growing impact on vision care was the focus of “Tackling Disruption: The Telehealth Frontier.” The session, which featured telehealth experts, leading providers, eyecare professionals and optical retailers, examined how health care and business leaders are grappling with a challenging trend that is reshaping relationships between doctors and patients.

The session consisted of three parts. The first featured three experts in the telehealth field who discussed regulatory and compliance issues: Latoya Thomas, director, State Policy Resource Center, American Telemedicine Association; Daniel Cody, attorney, Jones and Day; and Wallace Lovejoy, founder, Lovejoy Eyecare Consulting.

Thomas noted that ATA focuses on helping to expand coverage and reimbursement for telehealth services, among its other initiatives. “We also look at opportunities to really enable health care providers to fully utilize these technologies and services,” she said.

She noted that, according to ATA’s data, 34 states and Washington, D.C., are “embracing telemedicine.” Cody noted that state boards of optometry and medicine have gotten “much, much more active in terms of looking at telehealth,” particularly optical. “And they are asking questions about how [the] operation is structured and where is the physician located,” he added.

Still, ocular telemedicine is positioned now to improve both access and outcomes, and also offers a way for doctors to expand their influence, Lovejoy said. “I think it’s also a way for doctors to get their patients to be more adherent to whatever they are prescribing in terms of treatment plans,” he added.

The second segment featured executives from four optical telehealth providers: Howard Fried, OD, the founder of DigitalOptometrics, a tele-optometric startup offering comprehensive eye exams using automated technology; Brent Rasmussen, chief executive officer of Opternative, which offers online vision testing; Lee Kuczewski, director of operations, Smart Vision Labs, which has developed a proprietary, smartphone-based telemedicine platform; and Greg Lechner, director, marketing and communications chief for 2020Now, which provides in-store remote eye exams using tele-ophthalmology.

Fried, describing his company’s official launch at Vision Expo, said the service does permit “real-time communication between the optometrist and the patient.” He also noted that the system is designed for both an in-office OD and a remote OD to operate it.

Lechner acknowledged that “there are a lot of different flavors when it comes to telemedicine,” yet he noted that telemedicine options could be key to addressing the significant shortage of doctors in the rural areas of the U.S.
Opternative’s Rasmussen said the Chicago-based company wants “to partner with the industry” to drive high-quality eyecare. And, he noted, Opternative expects to be operating in five countries overall by the end of April.
Kuczewski noted that SmartVision Labs has 600 of its devices in the field and that 100,000 patients have utilized the test. SmartVision is able to provide a solution for quick updates to prescriptions, he added.

The third part of the telehealth session examined how eyecare professionals and optical retailers are weighing decisions surrounding telemedicine implementation and sharing first-hand experiences with the technology. It featured a panel consisting of: Michael Duenas OD, chief public health officer, AOA; Rupe Hansra, OD, vice president, professional relations, For Eyes; Sukumar Pandit, OD, director of optometry, Philadelphia Eyeglass Labs; Jonathan Rosin, MD, owner, co-president, medical director of Rosin Eyecare; and Daniel Stanton, founder of Stanton Optical and My EyeLab.

Dr. Duenas stressed the AOA’s support for “safe, effective, science and evidence-based optometry practices” and the OD/patient relationship and the need for telehealth to adhere to current industry standards. He stressed concerns around regulation, and noted our responsibility as an industry ensure that patients’ eyecare is not being compromised.

Dr. Hansra stressed that telehealth “does not equal online refraction only,” and cannot and should not remove the OD from the process.

Robert Safian
Dr. Rosin urged ECPs to be proactive and “take the lead,” establishing relationships with new companies providing telehealth technologies—“don’t let them determine our role” and don’t reject telehealth based on fear.
Dr. Pandit noted that if telehealth exams are executed properly, “the only thing I can’t do is shake the patient’s hand.” In a proper remote eye exam, “all of the same elements of a traditional comprehensive eye exam must be performed,” which was echoed by Drs. Rosin and Hansra. Stanton said a telehealth eye exam should include “all of the familiar aspects patients expect.”

To round out the 2018 VM Summit, Robert Safian, founder of Flux Group and former editor-in-chief of Fast Company engaged the audience through four lessons and seven questions. These lesson and questions that Safian went through explored office and organization culture and the need to focus on “missions.” He said, “We all need each other. Human contact is what drives creativity.”

The 2018 VM Summit Premier Sponsors were Essilor, Europa Eyewear and Luxottica. Signature Sponsors include ABS Smart Mirror, Alcon, The Vision Council and VisionWeb. Supporting Sponsors were VSP Global and CareCredit.