Dateline: Sometime in the not too distant future: In an effort to continue it's growth against competition from the likes of Highmark and EyeMed, and to further reduce employer costs for eyecare/eyewear plans, VSP announced that it was going "direct to consumer" with the sale and delivery of eyewear.
"We now control over 50 million patients (that's 1 in every 6 Americans) and have the purchasing and technology clout to deliver unprecidented savings to our employer groups and individual subscribers," said a VSP spokesperson. "We have the resources and technology to eliminate the middleman and, in the case of eyewear, the Optometrist Provider is simply not necessary," he said.
The announcement above is bogus and is this author's creative endeavor.
Ask yourself an important question. Can the above happen? What's to prevent it? Eyewear is now sold daily through a host of internet providers and estimates indicate that the delivery system currently controls as much as 10% of all eyewear/sunwear volume. What's to stop VSP from harnessing the technology that they know so well? Further, VSP has your patient list and controls a significant portion of many Provider's business now. Unless en masse, Providers simply won't be able to drop VSP in a defensive move, since, for many, VSP represents the lion's share of their business. Providers will be left with just the medical/refractive side.
VSP has all the assets it needs to take the Provider out of the loop on eyewear; as well as, perhaps, a compelling competitive reason (and advantage) to do so. With Marchon (frames), VSP Labs (lenses) and Eyefinity/Officemate (internet and computing technology), direct delivery to consumers appears a logical next step. Why not? VSP is already selling consumers directly (see June 15th post). VSP certainly demonstrates little care for the economic health of its Providers. There's little to prevent them from eliminating the Provider entirely from the eyewear delivery system.
Sorry, Providers, you're just not needed! Will you join the ranks of stock brokers and travel agents? Will the internet do you in? What can you do, now, to prevent this eventuality (think "patient experience")?
Think losing your eyewear business isn't logical or possible? Take a look at what's going on in the pharmacy world.