Healthcare's New ‘Gatekeepers’ Star in Second VM Summit Session

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NEW YORK—Leading experts from innovative medical, retail and eyecare companies described how new healthcare business models are delivering convenience, greater access and more affordable and personalized medicine during a wide-ranging program at the latest session of the Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit. The speakers offered diverse points of view on the program’s theme, “Who Are the New Gatekeepers? What’s Vision’s Role?” Collectively, they exemplified a new approach to vision care that is wider in scope, more accessible and more fully integrated into the broader healthcare matrix.

The Summit program, held October 7, was the second in the four-part virtual series "AFTERSHOCKS: Remaking Healthcare's Future, Vision Beyond 2020," the VM Summit's major theme. The series began Sept. 30 and runs through Oct. 21. The full program, registration details and speakers' information are posted here.

Don’t Miss the Next Summit Session on Oct. 21—Register Now

The remaining Summit session will be broadcast on Oct. 21, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Remember, there is still time to register for this session. If you missed the three sessions, which aired on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 and 14, 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 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.


The Growing Role of Virtual Care
Lewis Levy, MD, chief medical officer of Teladoc, kicked off the session by talking about the recent rise of virtual care and the trajectory of this fast-growing firm, which offers critical, chronic, everyday and specialty care, including vision care, under the Teladoc Health banner. He said Teladoc Health is on track to deliver 10 million virtual care visits in 2020 in 75 countries.




Lewis Levy, OD
  
Dr. Levy called virtual care “a new medical specialty,” and he referred to its practitioners as “virtualists.” He said virtual care is optimized to serve as the “front door” to a streamlined healthcare experience. As he explained, “Through the digital front door, we are able to offer a very wide and comprehensive suite of virtual care services” that includes complex and chronic care, and mental health. “We believe that in this day and age, it’s ideally suited to meet the needs of so many individuals around the globe.”

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in demand for virtual care, Dr. Levy predicted that virtual care’s impact on healthcare will be profound and long lasting. “For healthcare providers, this has been an absolute sea change,” he said. “Nobody is really pining for ‘Let’s get back to Dec. 2019.’”

Regarding virtual health’s role in the larger healthcare ecosystem, Dr. Levy said Teladoc is working through what its “right sizing” should be in the months and years ahead. He stressed the importance of interoperability for integrating virtual care with other forms of medicine.

Speaking about Teladoc’s pending acquisition of Livongo, a company that enables patients to better manage their own medical conditions, including diabetes, Dr. Levy said it “positions our company to lead the market and set the pace. It establishes a consumer-centric solution… to whole-person care.” Noting that “the world has definitely changed over the past six months,” he predicted that healthcare will adopt “a whole-person approach going forward.”


Walmart’s Expanded Health and Wellness Strategy Includes Vision 2.0
In a talk hitting at the core of the new “gatekeepers” of health care, Thomas Van Gilder, MD, JD, MPH, the chief medical and analytics officer at Walmart U.S. Health and Wellness, provided an overview of where he is leading the company’s clinical organization as it touches upon primary care, dental, optical, hearing, behavioral health and pharmacy services.

Dr. Van Gilder noted that the Walmart mission is focused around the idea of “saving money to live better and healthier” and that this philosophy “is what informs our health and wellness strategy and offerings at Walmart today.”



Thomas Van Glider, MD


 
Walmart made its first move into the health care sector in 1978 with the opening of its first pharmacy, Dr. Van Gilder noted, and then “revolutionized the industry about 12 years ago when we started the $4 generic [drug] program, which allowed people transparent and affordable pricing on many important drugs that treat a variety of chronic conditions.”

Today, the retailer has about 5,000 pharmacies in its stores across the nation. Dr. Van Gilder said that Walmart filled about 425 million Rx prescriptions last year and its vision centers sold 6.5 million pairs of eyeglasses and sunglasses in the past couple of years. The retailer also offers primary care in its care clinics and wellness screenings during its quarterly wellness days.

In the eyecare sector, Dr. Van Gilder said Walmart has been spending a lot of time working to “reimagine and redeploy its vision [care] resources” in a project called Vision 2.0. One aspect of the project involves improving the lighting and atmosphere of the Walmart vision centers, which is aimed at driving more traffic to the optical centers and increase try-on rates among patients.

“The goal of Vision 2.0 is to create a seamless patient and customer experience and to deliver value to every customer in every encounter, and to deliver convenient care and convenient services for all customers.” This includes not only affordable frames and lenses, “but fashion frames and lenses, as well,” he said.

Another aspect of the Vision 2.0 initiative is to have optometrists within the vision centers play a larger role in providing primary medical care services, including hypertension and diabetes “and other whole-body concerns that manifest themselves in the eyes,” he said.


Mobilizing Eyewear and Eyecare
Alexis McLaughlin, president and CEO of 2020 On-site, explained how the company’s mobile vision care model addresses patient and employee needs outside of conventional settings, including recommendations that also befit more traditional practices. The six-year-old company caters to patients who name convenience and access as the most important factors in determining whether they receive care, and how.

Its six mobile optometry clinics, operating in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Georgia, deliver on-site care for employees at colleges, manufacturers, and other large businesses, as well as in apartment complexes and community centers. Each mobile clinic is a fully-outfitted OD office offering dilation and retinal imaging, an extensive frame selection, and a digitized patient experience including online booking, intake forms, and—importantly—prior insurance authorization.




Alexis McLaughlin
  
McLaughlin highlighted the importance of the employer’s role as a proactive “gatekeeper” on behalf of employee wellness both by providing benefits and bringing services to the workplace to streamline access to care. She said the company counts over 500 corporate clients, and its clinics have performed over 75,000 exams.

McLaughlin said that by reducing both tangible and intangible costs and providing immediate response to feedback, 2020 On-site maintains a 97 percent retention rate, successfully engaging patients who might otherwise defer care. As she pointed out, “There’s no excuse not to make, and keep, the appointment.”

2020 On-site makes significant investments in technology, and McLaughlin noted that the company recently upgraded its mobile clinics to meet COVID-19 safety protocols, increased telehealth services, and expanded operations to perform data collection in the driveways of clinical trial patients with retinal diseases so they would not miss visits. "We hit the road and traveled [the equivalent of] around the world—in 80 days," McLauchlin recalled. The company also offers contactless payment, emailed receipts, purchases mailed to patients’ homes, telehealth checks, and virtual eyewear stylists—all valuable services, during a pandemic or not.

With the coronavirus pandemic accelerating adoption of telehealth, alongside the emergence of other trends such as elevated demand for health and personal care services at home and in the workplace, McLaughlin believes eyecare delivery will continue to evolve accordingly. She said 2020 On-site’s partnership model and investment in technology “make patients look forward to their annual eye exams and make HR departments look good,” minimizing friction points and increasing accessibility to create a patient-centric approach which has doubled business.


The Rise of Medical Optometry
The final session of the Summit examined the rise of medical optometry, and how the diagnosis and management of certain diseases, such as diabetes, glaucoma and dry eye, has been gaining new attention as it creates a pathway forward for today’s primary eyecare providers. The panel, led by Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO, Kentucky Eye Institute and clinical editor of Review of Optometry, featured appearances by Ben Gaddie, OD, FAAO of Gaddie Eye Centers and Keplr Vision, and Robert Allen, OD, of Associates in Eyecare.

Dr. Karpecki kicked off the session by enumerating several “threats to optometry” including online exams, online spectacles, new deliverers of contact lenses (possibly Amazon), FTC contact lens rules and increased regulation. He asked, “what do they all have in common? They all focus on primary eyecare providers.”



Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO





(L to R) Ben Gaddie, OD, FAAO; Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO; Robert Allen, OD

  
Dr. Karpecki pointed to uncharted possibilities for today’s ECPs which he called “optometry’s blue ocean. The path to medical optometry is being fueled by several trends including the fact that there are more cataract surgeries than there are surgeons and as today’s Baby Boomers continue to age, they will develop other medical eye needs.”

Dr. Karpecki said, “COVID-19 was a good example of this—patients could delay eyeglasses and go online for contact lenses, which they did, but they could not put off eyecare medical needs. They had to be seen. Independent optometry should take the lead as primary eyecare begins to include disease management.”

Dr. Karpecki asked both panelists about their experiences transitioning to a medical health care model. Dr. Gaddie said Gaddie Eye Centers and Keplr Vision consist of 170 practices in 30 states. He said, “We spend a lot of time with our patients doing medical procedures in the areas of diabetes, glaucoma and dry eye. We do have a telehealth presence because there is still a need for it as some people are still afraid due to COVID.

“We have also been relying on patient paid procedures where people are willing to pay out of pocket for some products and this has helped us recover from the COVID-19 shutdown.”

In order to transition to the medical model, Dr. Gaddie said, “Start with telling your patients about medical eyecare, use your website other ODs and staff in your practice to educate patients about how you are going to take care of them. You’ve got to talk the talk.”

He said that within five years, “We will become the gatekeepers of primary eyecare. I predict instead of sending patients with dry eye, diabetes and glaucoma to MDs, they will be coming to ODs. We will shine in this role.”

Dr. Allen said Associates in Eyecare, with two practices in the Washington D.C. area and eight in Virginia said they have been “pushing the medical eyecare model for years and we have a broad footprint. We’ve seen an explosive growth in online purchases as people shop from home in order to limit their interactions. We are seeing fewer patients, which means we can spend more time with our patients and take better care of them.”

Dr. Allen advised those interesting in making the switch to medical optometry to invest in technology “which is scary because that’s not a trivial thing, cost wise.” But the payoff is there because “for us reimbursements are higher and once word of mouth gets out, referrals go up. Plus, the personal satisfaction is much higher.”

He concluded, “The goal is to change the public’s perspective that optometry is only just eyeglasses and contact lenses. We’re offering a global solution to all of the patient’s needs. We need to educate our patients about this. The future is bright for medical optometry.”

The Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit is sponsored by 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.


Registration Is Still Open for the Final Summit Session on Oct. 21

The remaining Summit session will be broadcast on Oct. 21, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is still time to register for the final session. Registration includes 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.