Corporate ODs Explore Consumer Attitudes

By

Dwight Akerman, OD, director of
professional programs at CIBA VISION,
greets participants in the COR Advisory
Panel Meeting and discusses the rise in
usage of silicone hydrogel contact lenses.

LAS VEGAS—Consumers’ attitudes about eyecare and eyewear—and how the current economy is impacting them—were in the spotlight here during a meeting of the Corporate Optometry Professional Advisory Panel prior to the start of Vision Expo West. The meeting was hosted by CIBA Vision, with supporting sponsorship by Alcon Laboratories, Essilor of America and Transitions Optical.

Attendees representing large optical chains heard from speakers on topics ranging from the recession’s impact on eye exam rates and optical product sales to what’s next in health-care reform. A special guest speaker was Tom Moseman, senior vice president of research and consulting firm Envirosell, who shared ways of enhancing the eyecare customer/patient experience, including the differences between consumers who visit mall stores and those at free-standing locations. “You need to think about what information the patient needs to know: where, when, why and how,” Moseman told his audience.

Moderator Dwight Akerman, OD, of CIBA Vision kicked off the meeting by noting an uptick in contact lens sales. He said the total U.S. soft-CL business rose 5.3 percent in June and July vs. last year, with daily disposable and monthly-wear CLs continuing to drive growth.

Marge Axelrad, senior VP/group editorial director for Jobson’s retail optical group, said the nearly 24 months of lagging economic conditions continue to impact consumer buying patterns. “Consumers are reassessing ‘value’ for all products and services, among all types of retailers and eyecare professionals,” she noted.

Jeffrey Johnson, OD, of J.M. Baird Securities,
provides an economic update.

Jeffrey Johnson, OD, director and senior analyst of J.M. Baird Securities, assessed the economy’s impact on eyecare, citing the current rebound in the contact lens market, which he said has recently “come back
very nicely.”

Ron Hopping, OD, vice president of the American Optometric Association, outlined the AOA’s ongoing efforts in the health-care reform arena, noting that the organization’s top priority is “to help optometrists thrive and succeed with health-care reform implementation.”

Tackling the issue of contact lens “dropouts”—patients who stop wearing their CLs within the first 12 months—was John Rumpakis, OD, chief executive officer of Practice Resource Management. He said patient discomfort is responsible for 53 percent of CL dropouts, noting, “To prevent dropouts, it’s important to prescribe the CL and the eyecare solution together as a system.”

Representing the Foundation for Eye Health Awareness, managing director Stephanie Campbell outlined that group’s public awareness campaign in nine U.S. markets, including a third TV spot debuting shortly. “Preliminary results show an increase in new patients and children’s eye exams in those markets,” Campbell said.

Brad McCorkle, president and founder of Local EyeSite, and Bill Valdespino, partner and VP, outlined the ongoing challenges of recruiting ODs. McCorkle said 1,705 more ODs will be needed annually over the next decade due to expansion in the profession and retirement by current practitioners, although optometry schools currently turn out just 1,200 graduates each year. Valdespino urged corporate ODs to use online recruitment techniques to reach the new “Millenium” generation of ODs.

Wrapping up the meeting, Transitions’ Manuel Solis, multicultural marketing manager, outlined his company’s efforts to help ECPs provide eyecare to Hispanic, African American and Asian American patients, the country’s fastest growing population groups. He said Transitions’ latest support materials include brochures targeting those three population segments as well as a bilingual consumer guide on what to expect after being diagnosed with an eye disease.

—Cathy Ciccolella, Senior Contributing Editor


Ronald L. Hopping, OD, vice president of the AOA,
discusses the challenges posed to optometry
under health care reform.

Marge Axelrad of Vision Monday, providing
a snapshot of the U.S. optical business.

Tom Moseman, senior vice president of Envirosell,
as keynote speaker discusses the science of shopping
and how optical retailers can merchandise contact lenses and
eyeglasses to today’s consumer.

John Rumpakis, OD, cites new data on the
true cost of contact lens dropouts.

Stephanie Campbell presents the Advancing Vision in Health
campaign of the Foundation for Eye Health Awareness.

Manuel Solis of Transitions Optical provides approaches
to meet the needs of an increasingly multicultural
American populace.