SAN RAMON, Calif.—During a year of unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, eyecare practices across the nation have adapted to meet the changing needs of their patients and find ways to not only survive, but thrive. In celebration of 10 such practices, on Monday CooperVision announced its 2021 “Best Practices” honorees. Now in its sixth year, CooperVision’s Best Practices program highlights optometric practices in the U.S. that advance the profession through innovation, industry leadership, and exceptional patient experience.

The new honorees join a prestigious group of 50 other extraordinary optometry practices that have been profiled and supported through the initiative, according to the announcement.

“Every year, we seek eyecare practices who have tackled the profession’s challenges head on,” Michele Andrews, OD, vice president of professional and government affairs, North America, CooperVision, said in the announcement. “But when we launched the Best Practices program, we never could have imagined a year like 2020 and the impact it would have on optometry. We weren’t sure what we would see in this year’s applications.

"The stories we received were remarkable. It has been a true testament to the strength and resiliency of eyecare professionals—that they have not only made it through the hardships associated with the pandemic, but that they have embraced them to make their practices stronger than ever. And they’re ready to share their secrets to success for the benefit of others. I’m so proud to partner with these new honorees.”

The 2021 Best Practices honorees are:

Alamo Eye Care – San Antonio, Texas
Since opening its doors in San Antonio in 2014, Alamo Eye Care has grown its revenue by 400 percent and has tripled the size of its office space. The practice attributes this success to the leadership, knowledge, and skills of owner Melanie Frogozo, OD, and the processes in place. Dr. Frogozo has built the practice to be focused on contact lenses. Every staff member is fluent in basic contact lens knowledge to ensure they can answer questions.

And for patients wearing medically necessary contact lenses or enrolled in myopia management, Alamo Eye Care employs a contact lens coordinator to provide dedicated support. While there have been dramatic shifts in the practice since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes have only helped to enhance the team’s patient-centric approach. The business side of the practice is overseen by a practice manager with a degree in business administration and experience in medical entrepreneurism. While Dr. Frogozo and her team are always working to improve patient care, they also take time to support the community. Through its Giving Back Exam program, Alamo Eye Care provides free and reduced-cost eyecare to those in need due to COVID-19, and volunteers services in a community center for the homeless.

Bellaire Family Eye Care – Bellaire, Texas
At Bellaire Family Eye Care in Bellaire, Texas, the team takes the “family” part of its name very seriously. From the warm, inviting welcome at the front desk to the personalized care in the exam room and optical, every patient is treated like a close relative. Ann Voss, OD, who founded the practice in 1999, and her partners—Marcia Moore, OD; Ashley Tucker, OD; and Aamena Kazmi, OD—provide not only primary eyecare but a wide range of services to patients, including myopia management, neuro-rehabilitation, specialty contact lenses, sports vision training, and dry eye management.

Because of these specialties, the practice has created an impressive professional referral network that contributes to the nearly 1,500 new patients seen each year. Bellaire Family Eye Care includes the Vision Learning Center, through which it offers vision therapy, and the Xtreme Vision Clinic, where it provides sports vision training services. Over the years, the practice has developed a brand synonymous with innovation, resulting in repeatedly being selected to be among the first to trial and introduce new products. The team also regularly asks patients about their current vision-related challenges to gauge trends within their community, then develops solutions to better serve them and foster practice growth.

Blink - Albuquerque, N.M.
As the sole optometrist at Blink in Albuquerque, N.M., Alissa Irons, OD, believes that investing in a large, exceptional staff is key to providing an exceptional patient experience. The practice’s customer service philosophy is simple: Never say “no” to a patient—and the 13-person staff is empowered to do whatever is necessary to ensure they never do. Dr. Irons starts by hiring smart and outgoing people, pays them competitively, and offers extensive bonuses to keep them motivated to work and exceed their goals. Staff retention provides consistency for patients that has turned out to be crucial to the practice.

While many practices are currently focused on adopting the medical model, Dr. Irons is focused on remembering the roots of optometry—and that is that patients come to Blink for glasses and contact lenses. Instead of feeling defeated by online contact lens sales, Dr. Irons chose to increase her stocked lenses and sell annual supplies to keep prices competitive. While COVID-19 has presented many challenges, Dr. Irons believes that opportunities abound for optometrists with patients who are spending more time on digital devices or those who grow frustrated with fogging glasses during mask wear. Blink finds unique ways to differentiate themselves in the area. As a result, the practice has been recognized by a local magazine in categories such as “Best Optometrist” and “Best Eyeglass Shop” for five years.

Bright Eyes – Tampa, Fla.

Founded in 2006 in Tampa, Fla., Bright Eyes Family Vision Care aims to provide the best in friendly, professional, and innovative eyecare. For his staff, owner Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, has built a culture of support and continuously strives to provide a better experience for patients. In 2014, the practice opened a second location, Bright Eye Kids, to focus exclusively on pediatric patients. And in 2019, Dr. Bonilla-Warford expanded the primary office to provide additional services and amenities.

The team understands that eyecare is not one-size-fits-all. The practice invests in cutting-edge technology and offers specialty care such as myopia management and vision therapy. When many offices were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bright Eyes adapted to provide vision therapy services through a virtual platform. Because the practice specializes in children’s vision care, using technology to educate patients and parents has been essential. The team has been successful with a Bright Eyes podcast and social media, including TikTok. The doctors and opticians regularly lecture at professional meetings and look for other ways to share their knowledge with others. For example, Dr. Bonilla-Warford created and moderates the Pediatric Optometry Facebook group, which now includes more than 5,000 ECPs from around the world.

Broad View Eye Center – Broadview Heights, Ohio
At Broad View Eye Center in Northeast Ohio, doctors Nicolette Scott, Josie Kosunick, and Doug Wiersma recognize that providing an exceptional patient experience cannot be accomplished with a cookie-cutter approach. Instead, the staff of this four-location practice is trained on how to use the DISC model to more effectively communicate with each of their patients. Based on the team’s initial assessment, each patient’s experience at Broad View is customized to ensure they get what they want at every step.

While the practice is a business that is expected to make a profit, the practice’s primary focus is on adhering to its core values: caring, cutting-edge, community, trust, teamwork, and fun. Every decision made—including the products and services offered, the people hired, and the technology and systems implemented—is made within the framework of these values. Broad View Eye Center also appreciates the value of change. During COVID, the practice had to make changes overnight that normally would have taken weeks or months to implement. But because they were nimble during such a challenging time, Broad View has managed to not only survive, but thrive.

Carbon Valley Eye Care – Frederick, Colo.
Today’s consumers are increasingly presented with online options for eye \care. Michael Koditek, OD, and Jeff Berger, OD, understand that climate, but believe there is still a significant portion of patients who want the best, customized, in-person care—and their team at Carbon Valley Eye Care in Frederick, Colo. strives to deliver that. Overall, the collective goal of the practice is to provide a professional, welcoming office that provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive scope of care that optometry can provide.

Carbon Valley Eye Care utilizes the latest diagnostic equipment, and has a dispensary with nearly 2,000 frames representing all price points, because “what’s good for the patient is good for the practice.” To that end, Dr. Koditek and Dr. Berger really wanted the practice to be sustainable. That’s why they invested $100,000 to cover the roof of their new building with solar panels so that the practice is now able to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with renewable energy. The doctors are also focused on taking care of their staff, even more so since the start of the pandemic. While the practice closed for a period of time, and has since had to reduce its hours twice, the staff has continued to be paid 100 percent of their salaries because they want to ensure the staff knows they are valued.

Clearvue Vision Center – Kent, Wash.
Using the latest technology, Clearvue Vision Center in Kent, Wash. is committed to improving the quality of their patients’ lives through better vision. One thing the team can always count on is change in pursuit of being the best. Under the leadership of Bryan Heitmeyer, OD, and Alexandra Gelt, OD, regular staff meetings are held to review the practice’s patient satisfaction surveys and conduct team trainings, and they are always looking for opportunities to improve. Clearvue Vision Center strives to be convenient for its patients, offering evening and weekend hours; online scheduling, bill pay and contact lens ordering; and text reminders for appointments and low contact lens supply alerts.

Last year, the practice also implemented a wildly popular text feature that enables patients to communicate directly with the team during business hours by texting the office phone number. Then, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it launched curbside pickup and telehealth visits. Clearvue offers many services beyond those found in the typical practice, including low vision, specialty contact lens fittings, myopia management, and more. Its optical has also become known as the place to shop unique, hard-to-find eyewear. Dr. Heitmeyer is currently pursuing his MBA to learn more about strategic management of the practice, particularly as the industry continues to change, bringing about new challenges and disruptors.

Dupage Optical – Addison, Ill.
At Dupage Optical in Addison, Ill., doctors and staff are trained to exude a passion for optometry and their patients’ overall health, using evidence-based medicine to preserve, protect, and restore their vision. This exceptional patient care is exemplified not only during the more than 5,000 “house call” eye exams the practice has performed for the homebound and disabled, but also when patients visit the clinic, which is equipped with the most advanced technology.

Dupage Optical takes an innovative “wellness pre-testing” approach that has become its standard of care, which includes retinal imaging, optical coherence tomography, and Meibomian gland imaging. This process assures patients that the practice looks beyond their prescriptions and into their eye health to check for more than 300 systemic health conditions that can manifest themselves in the eyes. The doctors—Steve Butzon, OD, and Caroline Cho, OD, have been lifetime members of the American Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association. Dr. Butzon has traveled to Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Ill. to advocate on behalf of his profession and his patients. Dupage Optical continually invests in new technologies, products, and services, and credits this willingness to embrace change as key to its success after more than 30 years in practice.

Professional Eye Care Center – Niles, Ill.
The doctors and staff at Professional Eye Care Center in Niles, Ill. strive to provide a patient-centric experience wherein each patient not only feels valued, but leaves their exam knowing more about their eyes and ocular health than they did prior to their arrival at the practice. Each visit ends with “Is there anything we didn’t discuss that you were wondering about?” This simple question has been key to delivering a stellar patient experience. Professional Eye Care Center sees every patient encounter as an opportunity to change a life, and as a primary care provider, see it as their obligation to partner with their patients to take a “team approach” to improve their outcomes.

When Pamela Lowe, OD, founded the practice in 1992, she quickly realized the importance of advocacy for patient access and optometric scope of practice. After years of involvement in the American Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association (IOA), Dr. Lowe served as IOA president. During her years in that role, there were several victories in scope of practice battles, and Illinois became one of the first states to mandate a comprehensive eye exam for all children entering kindergarten.

Socialite Vision – Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
When it comes to improving his practice, Adam Ramsey, OD, looks to set trends instead of following them, and he does so by looking outside of eyecare for inspiration. He attends non-optometry conferences and discovers new ideas in industries such as automobiles, real estate, sports, and fashion. Because at Socialite Vision in Palm Beach Gardens, going above and beyond for patients is at the core of the experience—and exceeding expectations is the standard.

The practice is 100 percent paper free, as it utilizes fully digital resources. Dr. Ramsey has found that this is not only beneficial for the environment, but impressive to patients, too. Every patient visit is carefully curated to the wants and needs of the individual; no two patients receive the same exam or same product offerings. Over the past few years, Dr. Ramsey has made it his mission to help with the issue of diversity and inclusion in the eyecare space. In 2019, he co-founded Black Eyecare Perspective, a nonprofit organization designed to cultivate lifelong relationships between African Americans and the eyecare industry. Last year, the organization hosted an event at which it exposed hundreds of students to the profession who may not otherwise have considered it an option.

All U.S. optometry practices currently fitting contact lenses were eligible for consideration in Fall 2020. Candidates were evaluated and honorees were selected by a panel of judges, including past Best Practices honorees and industry experts. A list of judges is available here.

The 2021 Best Practices honorees will be broadly recognized throughout the year, and are invited to participate in a specially designed educational meeting to be hosted virtually by CooperVision. Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, this year’s meeting will also include the 2020 Best Practices honorees, providing opportunity for even greater collaboration.

The Best Practices program is an annual event, and part of CooperVision’s commitment to showcasing the dedication of eyecare practitioners to their patients and communities. 2022 Best Practices applications will be accepted beginning in the fall.

To stay up to date on this program and learn more about this year’s honorees, click here or follow CooperVision on social media.