LAS VEGAS—Even in a challenging operating environment for ECPs, there seems to be no shortage of innovation among independent practitioners intent on pushing the boundaries of what defines and sets apart an eyecare practice today, as owners of three distinct and progressive vision care practices related to VM Live attendees here at Vision Expo West last month.

In keeping with its tradition of providing attendees insights and practical tips for enhancing their eyecare businesses, VM Live in a separate segment on Sept. 18 focused on telehealth and how it is being used in different ways by eyecare businesses in different regions.

As Vision Monday editorial director Marge Axelrad said in her opening comments, VM Live began as a way to help ECPs manage new technology that is being introduced and how to think differently about the eyecare business, while simultaneously coping with a new competitive landscape. “This is a lot more of a practical discussion,” she said. “We’re talking today with people who are adopting new technology at the speed of sight ... meaning if you haven’t started to think about your business in new ways, you’re late and you need to start doing that soon.”

CareCredit, a division of Synchrony Financial, was the Platinum sponsor for VM LIVE, which was held at the Sands Convention Center. Randy Baldwin, vice president of marketing, said the company is always seeking ways to show the industries it serves that CareCredit understands these business sectors and does intensive research on the consumer journey.

The three progressive practices featured at VM Live certainly are at the forefront of changes in eyecare and moving quickly to upend staid, old business models.

Bimal Patel, OD, founder of Focus Refined Eye Care in Houston, said he opened his practice “cold” about three and a half years ago and used inspiration from his love of travel and memorable experiences as the building blocks of the new business. He said the Houston market was saturated with eyecare practices when he launched, so he knew his practice had to be different.

“One of the inspirations that I had was the word ‘destination,’” he said, noting that Las Vegas is certainly a destination. “What I want to do is bring the destination into our everyday eyecare experience,” he added.

Kyly Zak Rabin and Myles Zakheim, OD, co-founders (and a father and daughter) of Los Angeles-based Zak, said they are taking “a 21st Century approach to eyecare and eyewear.”

“What we noticed over the last 15 years is that the entire retailing environment has changed,” Dr. Zakheim said. “Being aware of what was going on out there is why we created Zak,” he added, noting that Zak has been a business idea 15 years in the making with its emphasis on streamlining the eyecare/eyewear process. “Our goal in establishing Zak is to be all-inclusive,” he said.

Zak, which the owners describe as a comprehensive destination for vision that is a one-stop shop, tries to simplify the dispensing process by offering frames in just six shapes, two weights and three colors, Rabin told attendees.

Rounding out the practitioner panel was Perry Brill and Dr. Raymond Brill of Brill Eye Center in Kansas City, Kan. They take a ‘”modern” approach to dispensing and embrace a strong, patient-centric focus” in their two locations. “We’ve always had a best-practices mindset,” Dr. Brill said, noting that he is an early adopter of most new technologies. “We’re always looking for a better way to do it.”

“We try to think like a startup all the time,” Perry Brill added.

In the telehealth segment, Now Optics chief executive officer Daniel Stanton noted that one of the advantages of the company’s proprietary telehealth model is that it ensures a consistent patient experience at every location. (Now Optics’ retail divisions include Stanton Optical and My Eyelab, which operate a combined 165 retail and franchise locations across 25 states.) The company has offered ocular telehealth exams since 2016, and has administered more than 580,000 complete eye exams.

“We see telehealth as offering a more convenient, affordable, accessible and flexible experience for the consumer,” Stanton said at VM Live, adding that from a “business standpoint” telehealth allows the company to see more patients and to expand access to its doctors. “Our product is built by doctors, run by doctors and managed at the sole discretion of the doctor. And, as a result, it has been adopted very seamlessly.”

Paul Super, OD, FAAO, of EyeSite Optometric Group, which has two locations in Los Angeles, also provides telehealth services, but it is limited to patients already connected to the practice. He noted that his motivation for getting involved in telehealth is to provide “an enhanced outcome for the patient” and as a way to offer more convenient solutions than an in-office visit. Super said he views telehealth as “an efficiency component” of his practice and utilizes it to treat dry eye and to work with existing contact lens patients.