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NEW YORK – Having the wherewithal to successfully compete as an eyecare professional and a business person can be a daunting challenge, particularly for independents. In today’s lightning-fast changing competitive climate, health care system requirements, new digital technologies and a host of other financial issues and operational concerns are spurring new levels of investment now within the optometry and ECP communities, very visibly, from private-equity-backed groups, who are moving to put together regional groups along with single offices in some markets. They are reshaping the delivery of vision care to millions of patients.

But the same competitive conditions are now fostering other business model proposals and practice options for independent optometrists, specifically. These programs also involve helping independent ODs with the business-demands of practice. The mechanisms and support programs are not always involving a so-called traditional private equity aggregation of independents within a larger framework.

They are new programs, emerging from companies within the vision care/optical space, many of which are debuting this year. These programs offer new practice alternatives to the single-office optometric practice and create new models that can appeal to new practices who are just starting out, two-to-five-year practices who are looking for ways to keep going while minimizing risk, and active practices with five or 10 or even 15 years under their belts that have established a presence with patients in their community but still need operational and financial support. Even the group of older ODs who are starting to examine practice transition or exit options and want to plan those can consider these new programs.

Vision Monday presents here interviews with five such programs that are likely to become more visible as they revisit traditional individual practice ownership structures to offer options for ODs across the country.