NEW YORK—Adapting and pivoting were two of the key actions eyecare professionals said they took over the past 18 months as they looked for ways to respond effectively to the ongoing COVID pandemic. These comments were expressed during the latest Vision Monday Leadership Summit session, held virtually on Aug. 11. The session, titled “Capturing the Imagination and Loyalty of Today’s Patients,” was moderated by Matt Alpert, OD, owner of Alpert Vision Care in Los Angeles. Alpert led four panelists in an in-depth discussion covering the different approaches  the four distinct practices took, and are still taking, to manage their business and adapt to changing consumer and patient priorities.


Matt Alpert, OD, owner, Alpert Vision Care.
The panelists were: Ruth Domber, owner and founder of 10/10 Optics in New York City; Solomon Gould, OD, owner of Scenic Eyecare in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota; Julia Gogosha, owner and founder of Gogosha Optics, a high-end optical boutique in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles; and Mollie Tavel Kaback, director, growth/community initiatives at Dr. Tavel Eye Care of Indianapolis, Ind.
The four panelists were part of the session, “ALL-CONSUMING: A Deep Dive Into the New Consumer Mindset.” This was the second virtual Summit and it is the middle component of a three-part 2021 VM Summit series. 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.
Dr. Alpert asked the panelists to describe how their businesses fared during the height of the pandemic and to identify a few of the key changes that they noticed, and how the pandemic has impacted their respective geographic markets.

Ruth Domber, owner and founder, 10/10 Optics.

Domber said her optical location in New York City found itself at the “epicenter of the East Coast chaos” in the early days of quarantine last year. “It was very brutal, and we experienced the worst of the worst,” she said. “But then we also experienced the best of the best. It was a double-edged sword, and we were the only brick-and-mortar optical open during COVID in Manhattan, and we stayed open throughout. We did not close at all, which was very good.”
She added, “I found a saving grace in marketing by communicating with my patients on a very regular basis … and creating a narrative that was unique.”

Mollie Tavel Kaback, director, Growth/Community Initiatives, Dr. Tavel Eye Care.
Tavel Kaback said the multi-location Dr. Tavel optical business had a strong past year even during the pandemic. “I think we all have experienced the drama that comes with masks, [which] has been an unexpected hurdle that we did not anticipate. On the flip side, one of the blessings of the pandemic was that people were coming out of quarantine and were ready to invest in their eyewear. They had a great opportunity to think about their eyes during their time at home, and they recognized how often they were [in front of a] screen. So having patients be a little more aware and educated really benefitted our practices.”
She added, “They came into the office ready to have a more-informed conversation and invest a little more heavily. And we are always interested in a more-informed conversation with patients.”

Julia Gogosha, owner and founder, Gogosha Optics.

Gogosha said she has found the past 18 months to be an “adaptive time, both for us and the consumer.” She noted that optical more or less straddles the “need and/or want” category, which has been a benefit in that it supports continued demand.
Gogosha also said her office is comfortable utilizing “virtual” visits with patients, if that’s what they prefer, and has shifted to an appointment-only schedule. “All of our days are structured by appointment, which is something that people would not have been as open to before the pandemic for many different reasons,” she said. “Now, it’s no longer an obstacle, it’s really a benefit to be able to structure our days like this. But people have been very adaptive and understanding.”
Dr. Gould said he believes the pandemic has led to a paradigm shift in “the patients’ level of appreciation just for being able to have that access to care.”

Solomon Gould, OD, owner, Scenic Eyecare.
He added, “What I have seen in addition to the increasing level of appreciation [is that] people now see themselves as a valuable investment. We are seeing that in the demand for clinical offerings as well as for their eyecare expenditures.”
Dr. Gould said he is “optimistic” about the future of the ophthalmic sector, as well as other health care specialties. And he expects patients to have “a deeper appreciation for their health care professionals than ever before,” and that they are looking for a one-to-one relationship with their provider.
Registration and other VM Summit program details are available here. 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.
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.
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.