Optometric alliances or buying groups are a useful tool for private optometry practices. They are organizations for eye care professionals, such as independent optometrists, eye doctors, eye care providers, and others, who coordinate their purchases to get volume discounts and more leverage in their ordering. Alliances also provide member optometrists with increased purchasing power, business growth support, and management assistance. More importantly, these alliances play an instrumental role in supporting independent practices by allowing them to get the kind of price breaks that corporate practices have, which allows them to lower prices without sacrificing their capture rates and profits.
Benefits of Joining an Optometric Buying Group
One significant advantage of joining an optometric alliance is the increased purchasing power. For example, through an alliance, you could receive eye exam instruments, eyewear, or contact lenses from large retailers at discounted prices. These alliances negotiate large volumes with vendors, ensuring you can offer quality vision care to your patients at competitive rates.
Apart from the monetary benefits, optometric alliances also offer ample opportunities for networking, learning, and sharing best practices with fellow independent ODs. This knowledge sharing can aid in enhancing patient care and the success of the practice.
Understanding Different Types of Groups
Before joining an optometric alliance or buying group, understanding the distinctions between them is helpful. Traditional buying groups primarily zero in on leveraging collective purchasing power. They negotiate discounts with vendors, enabling members to procure eye care instruments, eyewear, or other supplies at lower costs. While this focus on price reduction is undoubtedly beneficial, it often doesn’t extend to other aspects of practice management.
Alliances like Vision Source, on the other hand, provide a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond cost-saving. These alliances offer resources for practice management, professional development, and networking among their suite of services. According to a study, 25% of buying group members belong to more than one group, while 13% of alliance members belong to more than one alliance. This statistic highlights that independent doctors and eye care professionals often seek to maximize benefits by belonging to multiple organizations. The fact that alliances tend to have a higher percentage of ODs with a single membership to one alliance indicates that alliances provide a more comprehensive set of benefits, reducing the need for additional affiliations. Therefore, when choosing between a buying group and an alliance, consider not only the immediate cost benefits but also the broader support that will align with your long-term practice goals.
Considerations Before Joining
When deciding to join an alliance, you ought to consider factors such as cost structures, coverage, vendor relationships, and the group’s credibility in the optometry sphere. It’s also important to consider your practice’s specific needs and whether the alliance caters to them. Joining a buying group often comes with membership dues, such as IDOC which charges between $150-450/mo. However, compare these costs with the potential discounts and benefits you’ll gain. Optometric alliances should also maintain solid relationships with reputable vendors, including lens and frame suppliers or even clinical research institutions.
Testimonials and First-Hand Experiences
Reading reviews from eye care professionals who have joined an optometric alliance or buying group can offer useful insights. If their website doesn’t prominently show them, ask the group to provide some referrals for you to talk to. Written accounts or interviews often detail what each organization provides, including discounts and value-added services like marketing support or training programs. These details can significantly help you gauge the value of the alliance or buying group, providing a clearer picture of what to expect. Testimonials often include insights that aren’t highlighted in official brochures or websites, offering a more nuanced understanding of the benefits. If you’re weighing whether to go with an alliance or a buying group, it’s helpful to know if members like the other aspects of the alliance beyond the additional purchasing power.
Yet, it’s also important to go beyond reading testimonials and take a more active approach in your research. Of course, you could always directly contact a member of the alliance or buying group you are considering. A one-on-one conversation can reveal hidden costs and potential misalignments between your practice and the organization in question. Asking pointed questions, such as ‘how much value have you gotten this past year’ and ‘do you plan on renewing next year?’ These can catch instances where the alliance may not suit your specific needs or practice philosophy. This helps you avoid groups that aren’t a good fit, which otherwise would have cost you time, money, and energy. Therefore, before making any commitments, take the time to reach out and engage with current members. This extra step ensures that you are making a fully informed decision that aligns with both your short-term needs and long-term goals.
The Synergy of Combining Alliances with Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
Optometric alliances and buying groups offer various benefits, from collective buying power to professional development. Yet, they primarily focus on areas like eyewear, diagnostic equipment, and sometimes marketing support. Another avenue for optimizing your practice operations is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). BPOs primarily focus on streamlining administrative and operational aspects of a business but they also bring to the table unique advantages. Some include the cost of software in their fees, which is likely more cost-effective for them since they serve multiple businesses and pass those savings on to you.
Unlike alliances and buying groups, which focus on optometric-specific supplies and services, BPOs have the capability to negotiate better pricing on software that practices may need for overall operations. This could include anything from advanced scheduling software to comprehensive Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems. The potential cost savings on such software purchases could be substantial, thus complementing the benefits you receive from your alliance or buying group.
Choosing Which Group Makes Sense for You
Before jumping into multiple memberships, use the guidance of this article to evaluate how each will fit into your existing operations. Many practices find value in belonging to both a BPO and an optometric alliance or buying group, leveraging the unique strengths of each. While the alliance might provide discounted rates on optical goods and educational opportunities, the BPO can improve operational efficiencies and bring down overhead costs in areas the alliance doesn’t cover.