By Jonathan Winnegrad, ABO-AC, NCLE-AC

I will be the first to admit that I tend to have some good old-fashioned ADHD-esque squirreling tendencies. Sometimes this leads me down various rabbit trails of thought. One of those thoughts is what would the world be like without opticians? For example, if aliens abducted all of the opticians to adjust eyewear in the next Solar System over.... what would it be like? Obviously, without opticians, eyecare businesses would lack professionals specializing in fitting and dispensing corrective lenses. Patients might need to rely more on their eye doctors or automated systems for the eyewear process. The absence of personalized expertise in lens selection and fitting could result in suboptimal eyewear experiences for individuals with unique visual needs. Certainly, the ripple effect would be felt by eye doctors, the general public, and businesses. Humor me as we take a deeper dive into this.

For starters, if there were no opticians, this would likely be felt most acutely by eye doctors. Eye doctors would then have to make the selection and fitting of eyewear a part of their standard exam practice. This would greatly increase the amount of time each doctor would need to spend with each patient. The number of exams that a doctor could perform in a day would dwindle. This would result in a huge increase in the price of eye exams, and eyewear as being profitable would become much more difficult. Can you imagine being an eye doctor on a busy fully-booked day when a first-time progressive wearer comes in for troubleshooting? Yikes!

Perhaps optometric/ophthalmic technicians would pick up the slack so that the doctor that they were working with was freed up to see more patients. This would also greatly destroy any efficiencies as more technicians were needed. As it is now any technicians that I know already feel super stretched in a million different directions. The idea for extra training, additional learning, and juggling I&Rs, glasses troubleshooting, and pre-testing along with eyewear selection would have the need for additional technicians to increase exponentially. This would also result in the need to pay technicians much more and further cut into the profitability of the business and costs for the patient.

While both scenarios above would have the office on edge and take away from a friendly atmosphere, the final two scenarios would be even worse potentially by compromising the vision of the eyeglass wearer. While it may not result in post eyepocolyptic chaos.... the following possibility would definitely have the biggest impact on the business.

Without opticians, we would lose somebody designated to ensure that a client can see as well as possible with their eyewear through expertise and time designated for such. With doctors or technicians I do believe people would ultimately be able to see with their eyeglasses but the impact on business would be very weighty. Your final options would be to have reception handle eyewear, while they answer a million phone calls and try to survive a very taxing job. The other option would be customer-facing Kiosks (think McDonalds) where the patient handled the eyewear process. Both are doable.... but when it comes to the proper eyewear selection, fitting, lens selection, and troubleshooting it would be a nightmare. Although this is perhaps a step above getting your eyewear needs met at Arby’s, these patients would ultimately find themselves back in the exam room and would make the sustainability of an eyecare business impossible without drastic increases in cost for the consumer.