Each one of the above companies was large, popular, and wildly successful in its heyday. And each one suffered a similar fate — a steady slide into irrelevance and/or bankruptcy caused by an inability to see the writing on the wall, coupled with a failure to innovate.
Innovation is the lifeblood of contemporary business, both big and small. Successfully embracing new technology usually depends on acting at the right time. Jump on an innovation too early, and you may be wasting time and resources. Jump too late, you can find yourself in a dangerous game of catch up. (Just ask BlackBerry about this one.)
Yesterday’s vision care industry
These principles extend to the eye care market with frightening accuracy. Twenty years ago, an independent ECP could open an office, become a provider for one or two insurance carriers, and simply wait for new in-network patients to walk through their doors. Carriers worked alongside providers, retailers, and manufacturers to provide patients with quality eye care. And carriers (more or less) reimbursed as expected.
The times, they are a-changin’
Today, the vision care industry has turned upside down.
- Insurance carriers regularly invent new ways to complicate, delay, and frustrate the reimbursement process (chargebacks, rejected claims, complicated phone trees, etc.) This gobbles up time for ECP staff and greatly hurts patient experience.
Insurance carriers and manufacturers are acquiring and merging with each other at an unprecedented rate, as they seek to take control of every part of their supply chain. This limits the ability of independent ECPs to choose products and/or optical laboratories that best meet the needs of their patients and business.
Vertically-integrated carriers are poaching patients from independent ECPs by offering discounted products and services (even steering patients to their own retail sites instead of to an ECP practice). All of this is made possible by their enormous scale, lower costs, and operational efficiency. ECPs don’t stand a chance.
The time to embrace innovation is now
At Patch, we believe the writing is already on the wall of the ECP marketplace. Reimbursements (which are doled out according to what most benefits carriers) are likely going to continue to dwindle in coming years. Insurance carriers are like any other business — and they’re going to do what’s best for them. Many forward-thinking independent ECPs have already begun to operate on a “cash-only” basis — moving away from the in-network model entirely and limiting their reliance on carriers for business. Why not join them?
The eye care market has already shown that independent ECPs are starving for an innovation, and we’ve developed a way that they can leverage insurance benefits while avoiding the constraints of being in-network. The time to move into the future is now. Because the alternative (a downward slide into oblivion) doesn’t look all that appealing.
To see how Patch can help lessen your dependence on insurance carriers, request a demo. We’d love to meet you.