Computer technology is gaining momentum among ECPs and optical retailers as the industry races toward better management of day-to-day business. VM takes a look at how six practices have used technology to improve efficiencies and bottom lines. Part of 1 of a 2-part Series. 

NEW YORK--There is a new momentum among eyecare practitioners and optical retailers for embracing the benefits of technology to grow and enhance the management of their day-to-day business.

Spurred on by the need to bring some sanity to the piles of daily paperwork that can overwhelm a practice, made even more complicated in multi-office or location operations, eyecare offices and optical dispensaries across the U.S. are moving towards systems that help them with managed care participation, inventory management, product ordering and overall better and more real-time accurate communication with both suppliers and patients.

The maturation of the internet-based capabilities of many new programs have helped retailers who have moved far beyond the ‘old’ days (five or 10 years ago in tech terms) to make the implementation of new programs and procedures more streamlined.

Customization, too, which marries an individual company’s particular needs to the capabilities of new software systems, is now also accommodated by today’s technology efforts, so that systems adapt to day-to-day practice’s needs rather than the other way around.

Further, the movement, in general, of all health care professions, including vision, towards the adoption of electronic medical records, is steady, requiring most all practitioners to develop ways, within HIPAA guidelines, to manage patient interaction and information and facilitate claims and provider participation. According to Ian Lane, OD, vice president, professional services for OfficeMate Software Solutions, “When you look at what’s happening across all health care fields, the management and administrative motivations for moving into the software world are the same--the top priority is to facilitate workflow management, then the need to improve clinical doctor support, to improve billing services and to improve patient care. Doctors today, therefore, are more fully involved in this arena of decision-making.”

On the dispensary side, the office managers and dispensers, too, are looking at ways to control inventory, analyze sales, improve profit and, in effect, help them make choices. As frame, lens, contact lens and lab suppliers invest further on their end, integrating communication is transforming how product flows, is reordered and sells through.

Rob Swanland, chief technical officer of Washington-based FlexSys, comments, “Inventory management can be what I call a ‘count and control’ keep track of what you have for the purpose of valuing your assets.” The company’s FlexLink, he noted, “is like a ‘control and management’ tool, which goes beyond basic level of inventory control and provides decision-support tools to help ECPs refine the composition of their frame board, help negotiate with vendors to achieve optimum frame board for their store/demographics, and more.”

The features and benefits of industy portals, including Eyefinity and VisionWeb, are integrating many functions with the participation of suppliers, labs and managed vision providers.

All of this is helping even single-location practices reap the benefits, achieve more control and help staff become more effective at their primary job - providing enhanced vision care to patients.

The variations and permutations of systems and their implementation are as varied as the types of locations and operations in vision care and optical today.

Vision Monday spoke to a number of diverse optical retailers, large and small, to illustrate just some of the ways that technology is helping them drive their operations and businesses to new heights. Their experiences are recounted here to showcase how their daily challenges are being transformed by technology tools.

 --Marge Axelrad, with contributions from the VM Staff.

Note to Readers

This is the first of a two-part series on “Technology Transformations.” Another range of profiles and services will be highlighted in Part 2 in the August 14, 2006 issue of Vision Monday.