Tips4EyeDocs Daily -22 Dec2011 – No 8 – An Open Letter to Dr. Jankowski

Dear Dr. Jankowski,

As the Chairman , VSP Global Board of Directors (“VSP”), I thank you for your outreach to the optometric community who make up panel doctors from around the country. You have been tireless in this regard. With the upcoming Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula discussions, optometry’s strategy of growth through greater medical eye care may for once and for all be stymied.

But I am curious. As the chief optometric spokesperson for VSP, it appears that VSP was waiting for a favorable judicial or legislative action that would blunt the ACA. That appears to be a purely defensive strategy much like a football team that has the lead and holding onto the ball as long as it can and risking no pass plays. Sooner or later, the next time you look up, you are behind by two touchdowns with only five minutes remaining.

If a political solution is what VSP that is seeking, the I would have thought that VSP would pursue a political strategy of a candidate in a very tough campaign and needs to reach outside their traditional base, like independent voters, to garner additional support. In this regard, VSP has addressed mainly the panel doctors. Assuredly, the addition of independent doctors to campaign for the standalone vision plan participation in exchanges and for vision benefits within the ACA would certainly help.

I believe that the secret sauce that has fueled your growth has been its image as a friend of optometry. I believe that VSP has lost this advantage and has overlooked its pillar of support, the rank and file optometrist. Today’s world, however, has seen the pace of policy and politics quickly overtake traditional business strategy. Like the sports fan that needs wooing back, VSP looks like that it is on the right track with Rob Lynch appearing in the latest Town Hall Meeting. It has been a long time coming but I finally feel that I and my rank and file colleagues have your ear.

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About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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3 Responses to Tips4EyeDocs Daily -22 Dec2011 – No 8 – An Open Letter to Dr. Jankowski

  1. I disagree. I think the rank and file ODs take what Mr. Lynch says with a HUGE amount of skepticism. For one thing, he’s not an OD, he is a business person. Hence, one should expect whatever he is saying or doing is for VSP’s business benefit, period. For another, rank and file ODs have lost trust in VSP. And for another, all VSP is doing is explaining why they have done what they’ve done. There does not appear to be any interest in changing course. I suspect VSP recognizes some of this and that’s why we’re seeing ODs speaking for VSP more, and Mr. Lynch less.

    In the past VSP operated on a “by ODs for ODs’ philosophy. In other words, they were, in large part, growing by helping ODs make more money by seeing VSP patients. But, as VSP moved into the lab business, the computer business, the frame business, etc., and as the economy and competition among VCP’s has changed, VSP’s philosophy has changed. It is now, “by ODs, for VSP.” I see MANY cases/situations where the goal of a VSP strategy is to enable VSP to sell more plans to employers (or keep from losing plans), and often that is at the expense of the ODs by reducing reimbursement, requiring discounts, imposing burdensome rules and policies on ODs that make it HARDER, not EASIER, for an OD to make a living.

    These “town hall meetings” are simply a PR exercise by VSP to explain why they are making it harder on ODs, and they are falling on now very skeptical ears. What they should be doing is finding out from ODs what VSP can do to restore their trust and to help them return to being profitable.

    • Dr. Steinberg,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
      I don’t disagree with some of the sentiments of your comment. However, I do believe that despite skepticism, I believe that Rob Lynch personally presenting at a Town Meeting means that he acknowledges that only he can elaborate on the business strategy for VSP. Because Dr. Jankowski is not the executive in charge, he cannot say with the same authority as Mr. Lynch.

      I also believe that what doctors say on social media and what they do “with their feet” are two different things. Like in politics, what people say before a voter goes into the ballot box and how they vote can bring surprising results.

      My open letter still questions how transparent VSP can be in encouraging doctors to remain with VSP. This is critical. Because VSP’s market leadership is being besieged and threatened, it is no longer able, in my opinion, to hold the “safe route” to success.

  2. There may be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but it seems to me that when people like Dr. Jankowski, that is, OD’s, WERE the executives in charge, VSP didn’t have the problems with the rank and file optometrists, which are VSP’s backbone and the only “product” it really can sell, that they have today. So, while I understand that having Mr. Lynch speaking personally, on one hand, adds credibility to the message, it, on the other hand, highlights to all ODs that ODs are no longer running VSP, a business person is, and ODs should not take it personally that VSP is no longer their friend, it’s “just business.”

    I believe that, until VSP refocuses and makes ODs once again its most important resource, it will continue to fall. ODs leave VSP because they discover they aren’t making MONEY with VSP. The bottom line is the bottom line. Driving patients into the office is not a solution if, once the patient is there, the doctor’s hands are tied, the rules are in a 6 inch thick book, and there is little or not profit. Once doctors were thrilled to see a day busy with VSP patients. Today they are disappointed, because one cash patient generates the same bottom line profit as perhaps 4 VSP patients. Until VSP fixes that, it will not get any traction to help it stop falling.

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