It's important that we stay relevant to the 21st century consumer and the customer experience that they have come to expect.
Over the next five to ten years, there is a lot that will change within the optometric profession, as well as within the optical industry and these changes are closer than you might think.
Advancements in technology
A lot of this change is being driven mainly by technology and demographics.
One of the main drivers of change within the industry is the cost of miniturisation of technologies is constantly decreasing. In essence, what we are seeing is an ‘Uber-isation’ of technology. For example, it’s already possible to produce an OCT machine that is one fiftieth of the cost of what you would get in practice and you can now do fundus photography on your smart phone via an app.
This is going to become easier and easier and it’s going to become increasingly hard to regulate this, especially if companies from outside of the UK start introducing these technologies.
Priority on eye health for an ageing population
Another factor driving change, is that population figures show that between the years 2010-2030, the number of 65 to 74 year olds within the population will increase by 50% and the number of 85+ will also have doubled within that period.
What we know is that as eyes age, there is an increase of disease within them, and with an increase of disease with the eye, there is therefore an increase in the cost of eye care.
If we take this 20 year window (which we are already one third of the way through), it tells us that the cost of eye care is going to substantially increase during this time period.
Furthermore, the burden for the NHS to deliver this eye care is going to increase, when already their pockets are being squeezed. This will put further pressure on change and push the responsibility of eye care back into the community, as the cost of eye care in the hospital is far more expensive than on the high street.
While all of this can be seen as a threat, it is also an opportunity and I certainly look at it as the latter.
Ready for change
However, to take advantage of this opportunity, we have to be well informed and we have to be ready. The way we will do this, is by ensuring our practices are well equipped and our professionals are knowledgeable and fully prepared for the changes that are afoot.
We will begin to see a big shift in some of the multiples, mainly Specsavers, in the way they market to consumers, which will no doubt drive some of this change.
They are now heavily promoting, or will very soon via marketing on TV, be promoting eye health clinics. This will see a shift in their usual message, which used to be centred around value i.e. 2 for 1 etc. to now being all about eye care. This is because they also realise the opportunity that will be available as the market shifts and re-manoeuvres over the next few years.
Currently, all the optoms at Specsavers are getting accredited, ready for enhanced services and their marketing is getting geared up to change public perception about enhanced services.
The independent's ability to be agile
Knowing that we have always shouted about eye care as being independent led and something that the independent practices can be a little bit stronger at, we have to make sure that this now stacks up and is indeed the case.
These changes are already happening and what we want to do as a group, is to be well placed to participate in this opportunity in the landscape. A lot of independent practices will be too slow to react but that is certainly something that we won’t be doing! We will ensure that we, as a group, are perpetrators of this change, not the victims of it .
Our practices must be well equipped, and our optoms and DOs accredited to allow us to take advantage of the opportunity that will be available in the next five to 10 years of optometry around enhanced eye care. This will do doubt drive footfall which will additionally convert into patients, who will use us not just for their eye care, but also, their eye wear.
Ultimately, our history is not a justification for our future and we must adapt in order to thrive.
To quote President John F. Kennedy:
“Change is the law of life. Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
We’re living in changing times, we’re living in exponential times but as a group, we are most certainly living in interesting and exciting times.
Imran Hakim, 2017.
Hakim Group Thought Pieces
Imran Hakim shares quarterly Thought Pieces with all members of the Hakim Group to inspire and inform the work of the company for the upcoming months.