Ophthalmology Management recently featured Dr. Constance Okeke’s article entitled “Tackling Glaucoma One Trabectome at a Time”. Dr. Okeke is a glaucoma specialist and cataract surgeon at Virginia Eye Consultants and assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. Please click here to read the article.
Virginia Eye Consultants strives to make a difference by helping those in need. Last year their Team raised over $10,000 for VisionWalk / Foundation Fighting Blindness. One of the contributors to the funds raised is VEC’s annual bake sale. This sale, typically held on one of VEC’s busiest clinic days is made possible by the VEC staff who donate baked goods to sell with all proceeds going to VisionWalk.
Virginia Eye Consultant’s Team is hoping to beat last year’s donation amount with their Bake Sale this year!
VEC is one of the Top Teams in donations each year at the Vision Walk. VisionWalk is a signature fundraising event of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Since its beginning in the Spring of 2006, VisionWalk has raised over $28 million to fund promising treatments and research to find a cure for devastating blinding retinal diseases. With the help of organizations such as Virginia Eye Consultants, the Foundation Fighting Blindness is making a difference today to make the world a brighter place for those suffering with retinal degenerative diseases.
HydroEye is a patented nutritional formulation that works from the inside out to provide continuous dry eye relief.
“Achieving statistical significance in a dry eye study is a remarkable accomplishment, especially given the extreme difficulty that many highly regarded pharmaceutical companies have had in bringing a prescription dry eye product to market,” said John D. Sheppard, M.D., M.M.Sc., president, Virginia Eye Consultants. “This was a prospective, randomized, multicenter, placebo-controlled trial as would be any U.S. Food & Drug Administration registration clinical study.”
Dry eye is estimated to affect 30 million Americans, but the actual number of dry eye sufferers is thought to be much higher because cases of dry eye tend to be dramatically underreported. In the U.S. alone, the economic burden of dry eye totals $3.84 billion in direct annual health care costs. When including the indirect costs of lost productivity, the societal burden of dry eye rises to $55.4 billion annually in the U.S.
A wide variety of dry eye treatments are available; however, many have disadvantages or side effects. Oral prescription dry eye therapies such as secretagogues have a host of systemic side effects, such as intestinal cramping. Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline can cause gastrointestinal upset, sunburn sensitivity and tooth discoloration in younger patients. Topical therapies often present compliance, toxicity and cost issues, while some eye drops may sting, burn or cause allergic reactions.
“Given these parameters, HydroEye is among the safest, best tolerated, efficacious, and most cost-effective of all dry eye therapies,” said Dr. Sheppard. “I recommend HydroEye to all of my dry eye patients.”
This December, the Vanguard Ophthalmology Society focused on Dr. Elizabeth Yeu, MD, one of the founding members of the group for young, forward-thinking ophthalmologists. With the 10 founding members, the group came together to establish society values and initiatives, as well as a mission statement “of promoting excellence and advancement in ophthalmology through a collaboration of future leaders in our field.”
The Vanguard Ophthalmology Society brings together key thought leaders in the field who are in the early stages of their careers. The collaboration facilitates discussion on topics related to research and development, future medical and surgical therapeutics, diagnostics and everything from devices to practice development, ethics, and philanthropy. The idea was to find leaders in the young ophthalmology community who represented the future of ophthalmology [and] to unite them to help foster and develop the advancement of our specialty through innovative thought sharing.
Dr. Yeu is involved with several new technologies and has been involved both on the academic and private practice sides. “The one that I’ve really been working on has been astigmatism management, which has come into the limelight more so than ever before,” she said. Toric technology and femto phaco has helped to create another level of accuracy in astigmatism management. There are a number of devices and procedures under investigation and Dr. Yeu is staying abreast of these options as they emerge in the medical community.
The society offers a place to talk about aspects of the business side, practice side, and research side of ophthalmology. “The collaborations have been phenomenal in that way,” she said. “I never knew the traction of being part of a group where each member has that same focus of being able to say they love and are passionate about what they do,” Dr. Yeu said. “To be able to be a part of and listen to others who are innovative, technically and technologically, has been incredible.”
Business type: Specialty eye care
At Virginia Eye Consultants, growth over the past few years has been unleashed in part by a new operational structure.
Chief Executive Karen Spencer said before she and Chief Financial Officer Nancy O’Toole came about five years ago, physicians at the 50-year-old practice were juggling two roles: practice and administration.
“There was no real sophisticated leadership at the helm,” Spencer said. “Our physicians are world-class physicians in their own right, but they’re physicians. And they were working and taking care of patients and meanwhile, they didn’t have anybody with any level of sophistication running the business side of it.”
Suffice to say things have changed at the surgical and specialty eye care practice. Revenue is up about 22 percent from 2010 to 2012, and they’re headed for around 10.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth in 2013. They’ve added more than 20 employees since 2010 and have location expansion plans in the works.
“It’s a fabulous honor,” Spencer said about being named to The Roaring 20s for the second year in a row.
Spencer said the majority of the firm’s growth has come in the past four years. While having business-minded executives at the helm helped, it wasn’t the sole driver. The company has placed emphasis on recruiting world-class physicians, Spencer said, and supporting them with a world-class staff. Employees have been trained in the principles of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center for the past three years, she said.
“We take extra effort to ensure that our work culture is one of individual, personal growth as well as professional and corporate growth.”
Spencer used the phrase “world-class” further to describe VEC’s main 34,000-square-foot facility and ultimately the type of service they seek to provide. Revenue growth might be given a boost by those quality factors, but not to be overlooked is the firm’s extensive referral network.
“We have about 140 optometric partners out in the community who provide primary eye care and utilize our service in a shared-care partner format if the patient gets beyond their scope,” Spencer said. “Really that represents about 65 percent to 70 percent of all of our business.”
In turn, VEC offers partners continuing education, advanced testing technologies and other benefits. The referral model was in place when Spencer arrived, but it was in its infant stages. Since then, VEC has hired a director of optometric services that facilitates those relationships. There is also an advisory board with about 25 of the top referring optometrists that meets quarterly.
“We look out for their success and they look out for our success,” Spencer said, “and together we provide the patients of Hampton Roads what they need.”
Spencer said she expects continued growth. Besides the main VEC location, there’s a 4,000-square-feet satellite location in Hampton. In January, VEC is slated to open a 5,000-square-foot location there.
- Jared Council
Inside Business, The Hampton Roads Business Journal, The Roaring 20
Many, many thanks for treating me so well and with such professionalism and expertise. I was so very pleased with the amazing speed in which I was seen and provided care. This was probably my very best experience, of many, with your wonderful team of doctors and staff.
My eyes feel better than they have in many years: there is no more discomfort…my eyes shine! I can see so well, my eyes feel so good…this is truly magical! By Dr. Lago controlling my dry eyes, I was able to undergo my cataract surgery with Dr. Scoper. The whole experience is worth mentioning to everyone! Dr. Lago has improved my life greatly.
When I walked into your lobby, I was immediately greeted, kindly and professionally. My wait was never very long and everyone who assisted me along the way performed in a most professional, experienced and friendly manner. I noticed everyone around me was also receiving the same wonderful service. Thank you so much. I am thrilled to (finally!) be a patient of VEC!