We’re not breaking any news here – -unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past month, you know that the merger of Essilor and Luxottica is the biggest disruption to eyecare this year. What we don’t know is exactly what’s happening. Dr. Howard Purcell is the Vice President of Customer Development at Essilor, and he’s been the company’s face for answering the questions, concerns, and displeasure expressed by the eyecare community about the risks of reduced competition in merging two industry giants. He’s been doing his best to put on a bold face in the face of optometry’s concerns; you’ll commonly hear him saying an optimistic version of “we’re in a better place than we were one or two weeks ago.” But his reassurance of optimism has often fallen on critical ears as he’s been bombarded with interviews and gut checks from the ODs he’s been tasked to represent. If you’re looking for more of the same, this podcast is not for you.
We sat down with Dr. Purcell at last week’s Transitions Academy to discuss the other side of the picture. Dr. Purcell is the OD voice at the table during these merger discussions, and we do know the total impact of the merger is still in the works. Essilor and Luxottica plan to continue discussions through the end of 2017. As the optometrist who is representing our interests, we wanted to know what he’s advocating for. What are his biggest to-do items to help promote optometry’s interest during this merger? What is his vision of the future where this merger works to improve the careers of the next generation of ODs (those of us who will be most affected!)?
What we found was a man who is sees ten years ahead of the rest of us. He’s constantly seeing disruptive ideas and innovations come across his desk, ideas that could shake the foundation of eyecare that are probably only a few years out. His idea of optometry’s future is understandably colored by what he’s seen that we can only imagine. What he can tell us is that integrating the disruptive technology that is entering our marketplace with the independent optometrist’s personal practice is what this merger can do best for optometry. He paints a vivid picture of the hi-tech future of optometry:
- Virtual reality charts that allow us to check vision in night driving conditions or for specific sports activities that drive the in-office exam to the next level.
- Glasses with wearable technology that not only integrate Fibit-like capabilities, but could even communicate ocular disease monitoring or amblyopia treatment programs.
- Frame plus lens marketing that push forward the importance of high technology lenses, glare coatings, and UV protection in the mindset of the consumer to help differentiate quality eyewear from online discount warehouses that offer lenses and coatings that perform just like you’d expect from the $1-2 they cost.
There’s no stopping this merger from happening; no matter our concerns or trepidations, the train has left the station. Our job now is participating as much as possible in shaping the direction this merger takes, and to this point Essilor and Dr. Purcell have been making themselves very available for feedback. They ask you to give your insights and opinions on how to make this merger work for optometry by emailing AskEssilor@essilorusa.com. In the near future a panel of optometrists is being established to help promote optometry’s voice during the merger talks, and we hope all of you ask to be a part of it! We aren’t too young or too inexperienced to have our voices heard – this is our future that’s being decided and it’s important that all young and student ODs make sure your opinions count. Comment, share, and make sure you email your thoughts directly to Essilor!