NEW YORK—A well-known health care observer and a leading optometrist delved into how the pandemic changed the mindset of patients and those patients' views of "the patient experience" during the latest Vision Monday Leadership Summit session which was held virtually on Aug. 11. The session, titled "The Patient Will See You Now," featured a conversation between Destry Sulkes, MD, the executive VP of growth for Klick Health and Matt Alpert, OD, owner of Alpert Vision Care. The two experts examined how the pandemic accelerated the shift toward a “patient-centric” environment and how eyecare practitioners can put the focus on the patient experience in their practice. They also examined the role technology plays in creating these experiences.

Titled "ALL-CONSUMING: A Deep Dive Into the New Consumer Mindset," the second virtual Summit is part of a three-part 2021 VM Summit series this year. The VM Leadership Summit  featured a range of experts from outside the vision care field as well as a special ECP Panel with optometrists and opticians discussing their experiences of how the consumer/patient dynamic has changed since the advent of the pandemic.
Registered attendees can watch the session on-demand, as well as the June 23 VM Summit session (which explored optometry and telehealth) through the Summit platform, and registration is still open. Registration and other program details are available here.

Dr. Sulkes pointed out that due to the pandemic, “There's been immense changes happening all around us. Telehealth has certainly accelerated immensely. And with that is this understanding that the practice of medicine has long resisted all the digital trends toward digital maturity and is now coming into that digital space. We are now faced with much different expectations from consumers—this is a big opportunity to pivot the way practices work, and how we meet our patients where they want to be met.”

Dr. Alpert said that patient satisfaction and expectations are evolving. “When I have a patient come in and they purchase eyewear from my office, the expectation is that it's going to be a brand name with high end quality. But when a patient shops online, and brings it in for me to check, they tell me ‘I'm not seeing well’ and I explain the differences or why it may or may not be the same quality. They're purchasing the same essential product for a specific need, but the expectations are definitely different.”

Dr. Alpert said the term “Amazon-ifacation” is now being used to describe how consumers are expecting online service, on-demand, and he asked Dr. Sulkes to describe its effect on medicine in general, and eyecare in particular.

During the pandemic, companies such as 1-800 Contacts saw a doubling in new users, and a seven times increase in their digital app usage, Dr. Sulkes said. “I think what this is all telling us is that our consumers are really ready to buy things and get services online and virtually, just like they do their travel, just like they do their banking, just like they buy their leisurewear. So it's time for health care to step into that space and start to own it rather than be the last holdout.”

Dr. Sulkes referenced the importance of mobile and social led strategies used by top performing brands which “informs entire campaigns and the surround sound experiences and messaging. And what I mean by that is we’re really going social first nowadays—we're not thinking of the big idea, and a TV ad and a big print campaign, we're really thinking of how little short snippets show up on Tik Tok and Facebook and Instagram.

“So in other words, the health care brands are now starting to show up the way people like to engage and on their terms, according to their preferences to build a relationship. And that's where eyecare is heading too.”

Vision Monday’s multi-part Summit program, "CREATIVE DISRUPTION, THE NEW NOW: How to Survive It. Why You Need It." culminates in an in-person live + virtual event on Wednesday, Sept 22 in Las Vegas, called "Retail & Healthcare: UPENDED! Ripping Up The Rulebook." Details about that program and registration info will be posted soon.

Registered attendees can watch the August 11 and June 23 sessions on-demand through the special Summit platform; registration includes both virtual broadcasts, full access to the VM Summit virtual platform, networking, on-demand viewing and exclusive access to attendees-only content after the event. Optometrists, opticians, ophthalmologists and students can register for no charge. All other industry registration is $99. Registration and other program details are posted here.

The Platinum Sponsors of the 2021 VM Leadership Summit are EssilorLuxottica, Healthy Eyes Advantage-PECAA and VSP Global Premier Program. The Gold Sponsor is The Vision Council's Vision Health Alliance and the Silver Sponsors are Alcon and Ocuco.