What is an Optometric Network?

Types of optical buying group arrangementsFor individual ODs, a professional optometric network or purchasing alliance provides the ability to stay competitive with larger eyewear chains, discount warehouses and big box stores. The opportunities created by these buying groups help to band individual optometrists together to leverage their optical supplies purchasing power while helping to advance their business operations and management practices.

Certainly, these groups are a newer development that are helping to keep the smaller eyewear shops and independent ODs in business. In order to do so, however, ODs must decide if joining up with a buying group that offers cost savings, networking, education and other industry perks offers a true advantage for their business. And, since not all networks or buying groups offer the same benefits, it’s important to research individual groups and compare their offerings before signing up. 

Different Types of Optical Supplies & Service Oriented Professional Networks

Just like any new relationship, becoming part of an optometric network requires an investment of time and energy, and potentially costs; some networks require an annual or monthly membership fee. In addition, its important to remember that the longer you’re with the group, the greater the benefits you’ll realize – it takes time to develop relationships, try out new methods and  put best practices in place before you reap the rewards.  

Sometimes, the name of the business practice group will identify the key benefits it offers. However, don’t assume that the name says it all; it’s always best to do your research and even ask existing members a few questions before you decide on the optical supplies group that’s right for you. Just a few of the common optometric network group names or types include:

  • Optometric purchasing alliances
  • Optician networks
  • Optical buying groups
  • Ophthalmic consulting groups
  • Optometric  cooperative groups
  • Optical practice management firms

The Difference Between Optical Buying Groups and Optical Alliances

As you can see, optical supply and service networks have many different names. Here are the main differences between an OD buying group and OD alliance:

  • Optical Buying Group – Typically, this type of group is more focused on discounted products and services for the group as a whole. Such groups may or may not require a membership fee or have any minimum purchase requirements.
     
  • Optical Alliance – An optical supplies alliance network usually offers more support services than just vendor discounts. Supplementary services are likely to focus on practice management, networking and other growth initiatives. Sometimes, these types of groups require a longer term investment or higher membership fees.

Services, Opportunities and Benefits Created By Optometric Networks

The reason that so many private practice ODs join an optical supplies network is to enjoy the services and benefits that would not be possible to enjoy outside of the group. Just a few of these different services include:

  • Buying power including wholesale pricing along with discounts on products, instruments and lab services
  • A range of vendor options including a lengthy list of respected industry players as well as exclusive partnerships
  • Practice management guidance to help members join up with other like-minded ODs, stay on top of trends and share best practices
  • Education or instructional classes to advance professional development and business operations
  • Marketing materials and support to help drive foot traffic and repeat business

In addition to OD related services, joining forces with an optical supplies buying group or alliance also offers other benefits that help to cut costs and simplify business processes for its members. A short list of alliance group benefits that help members improve profits include:

  • Leveraging pooled resources
  • Greater purchasing power
  • Remaining competitive
  • Lowering the cost of doing business
  • Simplifying business  processes and paperwork

Is An Optical Supplies Purchasing Alliance Right For You?

Before you choose an optometric network, may sure you consider:

  • The commitment requirements that will be asked of you 
  • Any compromises you may need to make as part of the group
  • Whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs

Joining up with an optical purchasing group can help you deliver a higher quality of care to your patients. And, truth be told, there aren’t many successful private practice ODs today that aren’t part of such an alliance. The benefits offered in terms of increased efficiency and strategy can help you make the challenges of running a business less daunting. Reach out to The Alliance Buying Group for more information and to find out about the benefits you’re missing out on!