Matt Alpert, OD 

Robert Chu, OD 
NEW YORK—Sensing a desire among independent ODs to have “fresh options” and new solutions to help boost their practices, the founders of The Eye Consortium (TEC) launched their idea for a different type of alliance and buying group in early 2019. Now, with the pandemic overturning normal business operations for many ECPs, the fast-growing alliance is pushing close to 1,200 provider members and adding new, select supplier partners to build out its offering of curated products and services.

The group, founded by experienced eyecare executives Matt Alpert, OD, and Robert Chu, OD, began as a limited-member study group but has grown into a robust organization of ECP members from across optometry, ophthalmology and dispensary-only optical offices.

The Eye Consortium is free to join, and its founders say the membership consists of independent-minded eyecare and optical practices seeking differentiation and solutions that enhance profitability. The Eye Consortium’s philosophy centers around creating a community of like-minded business people on the provider side paired with a curated, specialized group of vendors who want to see independent eyecare practices continue growing and thriving.
Alpert and Chu have broad experience working in various roles across the eyecare industry and came up with the philosophy for their new alliance out of the small study group they had initiated. One of the goals is to help practices maintain a unique environment for their patients. The founders note that after years of watching profits erode and dispensaries become commoditized, “a novel approach is imperative. Practice differentiation and the patient experience are keys to an independent and profitable practice.” (Alpert and Chu continue to practice optometry within their separate independent eyecare locations, Alpert Vision Care in Los Angeles and Chu Eye Institute in Fort Worth / South Lake, Texas, respectively.)

The Eye Consortium has created “a comprehensive suite of products and services” for a practice to use to increase profitability and yet remain independent. “We aim to ease the pain points that make running a practice difficult and time-consuming,” Alpert and Chu noted in a recent interview with VMAIL. “Creating a community of like-minded business people allows us to curate a specialized group of vendors, focus on maintaining your unique environment, and increasing your profitability.”
One of the elements that make The Eye Consortium unique is that it has established “a totally independent, non-competitive relationship for the vendor partners,” Alpert said. As a result, there is only one exclusive vendor per category, which permits the vendor partner to feel “really secure in the relationship” with the group. This factor, he noted, is one of the reasons for the group’s fast growth.
Some of the initial core vendor partners are: Zeiss, Lafont, Modo, Capri, Ocusoft, Santinelli, Eye Care Pro, Eyeris, Optipak, and EdgePro by GPN. Additional partners and new categories are expected to be announced soon.
The new group’s entry comes as many independent practices faced shutdowns and reduction in hours and patient visits during the height of the pandemic, but it also was a time of increased evaluation of business processes and procedures.
In the midst of the pandemic, many doctors were “looking for different or fresh options, and working smarter-not-harder options,” Chu said. “We feel that our suite of solutions enables that. With fewer patients coming through the door, doctors had to make the most of every opportunity as practitioners.”
Alpert attributes the group’s success to the experience the founders have working in different organizations across the industry, including their roles as practitioners. “We were practicing optometrists for many years, and we had had membership in other alliance groups.” What seemed clear and what presented an opportunity, he said, was to create an organization where both sides [providers and partners] were in a position to benefit.”  
Other elements that make The Eye Consortium different is its focus on “creating a basket” of services and products that cover all the categories an office might need. “There is so much homogenization in practices today and their appearance,” Alpert said. “So we created a basket of services for those people who really want to be independent and who want to differentiate from the other groups.”