“We have created an important link with the optometry industry to show the value of vision care and overall healthcare.”
Kate Renwick-Espinosa, incoming President of VSP Vision Care, has worked at VSP for more than 23 years, most recently as VSP Global’s first chief marketing officer since 2010. Kate led VSP’s global marketing strategy to deliver its products and services to more than 75 million members and 32,000 doctors. Here, she talks about how VSP Vision Care adapts to the changing market, the impact of the Affordable Care Act, and increasing consumer choices through online sales.
Ed De Gennaro: Why do you think VSP has been so successful?
Kate Resnick-Espinosa: I think what has contributed to our success is continuing to stay close to consumers and evolving to meet their needs. VSP was started by a group of optometrists who wanted to create greater awareness of eyecare. We’ve continued to build on that and adjust the benefits we provide. Vision refraction and fulfilling the needs of people who need a prescription is one component of what we do- patients also walk out with a wonderful pair of fashionable eyewear that helps them get the most out of their life and their vision. We have also created an important link with the optometry industry to show the value of vision care and overall healthcare. I think vision should be as popular as medical and dental coverage. Everyone should have vision coverage, and everyone should get an eye exam and make certain they have both the eyewear and eyecare they need.
Ed: How do all of VSP’s channels such as Eyefinity, Marchon Eyewear, Eyecon!c.com, lab services, and a products division help support the original mission?
Kate: The VSP mission has always been to help people see. How we fulfill that mission has evolved and resulted in bringing together a group of complementary companies——from software and vision insurance to frames and lenses-to be able to meet the full range of needs of providers and consumers.
Ed: What are some of the new products?
Kate: VSP has several channels that provide VSP vision care benefits and coverage. It can be through an employer, a health plan partner, or directly to a consumer. We provide different coverage options, too. Employers can customize vision benefits that meet the needs of their employees. We also personalize consumer options. Easy Options is a new product enabling covered members to choose what extra options or coverage they have at the time of their appointment.
Ed: How is optometry changing and how is VSP changing to meet those needs?
Kate: Optometry is seeing a shift with Millennial providers who operate differently and have different needs for their practice. Optometry is also seeing changes within graduating students with more women and more diversity. That means there’s an opportunity for VSP to evolve programs and products.
Ed: Does the vision benefit of the Affordable Care Act affect your business?
Kate: The Affordable Care Act has provided more opportunity to get vision care. However, it is focused on children and we believe there needs to be access for everyone for vision care coverage. We’ve also seen the utilization be lower than our other programs through ACA, and that concerns us because they may be signing up for it but not using it.
Ed: What’s the next major initiative for VSP?
Kate: As a not-for-profit organization, we continue to expand our focus on corporate social responsibility and new charity programs. For example, in 2014 we launched a program with the Nike Football Training Center in Soweto, South Africa, with the goal of reducing uncorrected vision impairment among school children. In 2012, VSP Vision Care adopted Tyreke Evans’ hometown of Chester, PA, to provide eyecare for residents and connect with local students to reinforce the value of vision care.
Ed: Why did you start eyecon!c and what makes it unique?
Kate: We created eyecon!c to have a solution for those patients, especially Millennials, who want to buy online. What makes eyeconic.com different is that for every pair of glasses sold, it comes with a complimentary fitting and adjustment by a VSP doctor’s office. We always have a VSP doctor involved in each of these transactions.
Online optical is fairly small but a growing part of the business. It’s important to provide that choice to consumers who want to buy that way. It’s a technique for extending choices in a provider’s practice and for consumers beyond what is in the provider’s office. All VSP doctors are eyeconic.com providers unless they opt out. VSP Vision Care and eyeconic.com stand behind anything that is sold online and if there is any issue, we make it right with the member.
Ed: What changes and challenges are on the horizon?
Kate: Consumer needs continue to evolve and VSP Vision Care’s membership is going to be 50% Millennials by 2020. There’s going to be a big challenge to meet the multi-generational mix within our membership, optometry, and the practices.