Optometrist Spreads the Word on Medical Services
In April 2010, Joseph Convertino, OD FAAO, opened a single practice at a Walmart store located in Fort Myers, Florida. Now, just six short years later, Dr. Convertino has three practices in Walmart locations in Southwest Florida (Walmart stores #623, #4063, and #5347). Dr. Convertino’s goal is to expand his iCare Solutions brand to reach new patient populations, so he has a renewed focus on marketing through newspaper ads, in-house visibility and improved web search engine presence, all of which will maximize traffic year-round. “Fort Myers, like much of Southwest Florida, is very seasonal,” Dr. Convertino says. “My strong season is December to April.” Dr. Convertino, a Southeastern University College of Optometry graduate, leveraged his ocular disease residency at Malcom Randall VA Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, to build three practices focused on full-scope optometric care, which is very beneficial for the substantial geriatric population his practices serve.”We use the medical model to meet the needs of our patient population,” Dr. Convertino says.
Many corporate-affiliated optometric practices offer standard spectacle and contact lens examinations, not medical model optometry, he says. He invested in advanced technology to get a better picture of patients’ eye health, including retinal scanning imaging with the Optos Daytona. This machine gives him the ability to capture a wide angle of the retina and perform autofluorescence scans to evaluate the retinal pigment epithelium and aid in early diagnosis of diseases such as macular degeneration.
All three practices also have incorporated the spectral domain optical coherence tomography. “To me, it should be a standard of care, and hopefully someday it will be.” His three locations are connected by a web-based electronic medical records solution. “This system makes these practices manageable and organized. I feel like if I’m going to do the job, I want to be thorough and do it right,” he says.
Dr. Convertino’s offices also thrive thanks to the other optometrists he employs for the practice. Sam Kaler, OD, a University of Houston College of Optometry graduate, brings a wealth of medical knowledge, stemming from experience of more than 30 years in eye care. Dr. Kaler focused most of his career in ophthalmological settings,where he participated in the Autonomous Laser Vision Correction study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Two of Dr. Convertino’s newest employees, Kara Collier, OD, and Cory Collier, OD, both graduates of Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, offer fresh and innovative insight into the business with practice areas that will attract different patient populations. Dr. Kara Collier adds an
expertise in pediatrics and binocular vision, after completing a primary care residency at Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Cory Collier also completed a primary care residency there, focusing on cornea and contact lenses, which may attract a new patient base interested in cosmetic, prescription and therapeutic contact lenses.
Like many independent ODs who practice in a corporate-affiliated setting, Dr. Convertino finds himself explaining that he is an independent doctor of optometry, whose practice is located inside a Walmart Vision Center. “The more people understand about the level of assessment and disease management the practice can offer, the more people we can reach.” A few months ago, his practice detected a brain tumor in a 19-year-old patient after diagnosing swelling of the optic nerve in both eyes. Dr. Convertino says the practices get a lot of referrals, but he’d like to make more contacts with local physicians so that they feel confident about the range of medical services he can offer their patients and the community.
The Walmart connection is a good business, he says. “When you’re in private practice you spend alot on overhead, and I can focus more on technology and patient care.” Dr. Convertino says that the low overhead allows him to invest his money elsewhere, such as in the specialized equipment. “We have more advanced technology than most of my colleagues.”
Plus, the autonomy Walmart provides allows Dr. Convertino to grow his business. Seeing patients and running a multilocation practice is very demanding, but Dr. Convertino is always looking for more opportunities to reach the needs of patients in a convenient and comprehensive way.
Dr. Convertino’s goal is to change the perspective of what represents an eye exam when you walk into a Walmart Vision Center. “Annual eye exams are really important. My hope is that this level of care becomes the norm and that we continue to raise the bar.”