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The Difference Between Optometry Chains & Private Practices

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An optometrist smiling while holding a pair of glasses out in front of her

You wouldn’t think that choosing where to buy glasses or where to get an eye examination is a complicated decision. And it’s really not, but there are some things to consider when choosing a clinic because there are a lot of competing practices out there.

In regards to training and ability, all optometrists have the same minimum training. The fundamental differences between an optometry chain and a private practice aren’t necessarily in the service quality.

The differences you’ll find between practices will be in the smaller details like the consistency of patient experience, competitive prices, or convenience, for example.

What are Optometry Chains?

An optometry chain is essentially an optometry business or company with multiple locations.

What are Private Practices?

A private optometry practice is exactly as it sounds—it’s privately owned. Typically the owner is an optometrist or ophthalmologist who is a resident of the local community, but not always. Occasionally there are also private practices that span several locations, but they rarely have the spread of a corporate chain.

Significant Differences Between the Two

Like anything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to a chain or private practice. Let’s look at several categories and see how these two types of clinics compare.

Consistent Service and Experience

For many people, the top thing they value about anywhere they spend their money is consistent service and experiences. This is especially the case when you visit any kind of chain. When you visit a Wal-Mart or Costco, you expect that the majority of your experience will be the same, whether in the store layout or products offered.

It’s no different for an optometry chain. You can expect to receive the same quality of care and patient experience regardless of which city you’re in.

This isn’t to say that private practices don’t offer superb service and experiences either. However, suppose you visit two practices owned by different eye doctors. In that case, there’s a good chance that your experience will be different. Not necessarily bad, just different.

If you’re a person who values consistency, an optometry chain may be a great fit for you.

Convenient Technology

The use of technology is a must in most industries these days. For example, a website is critical in most businesses. Plus, blogs and social media are also powerful uses of technology. You probably won’t find a successful business that isn’t implementing most of these business practices.

Another popular technology would be the ability for patients to conveniently book appointments online. Again, this isn’t something that only chains have access to. Many private clinics can offer their patients these conveniences. At the same time, an optometry chain often has much larger budgets for these types of technology, so it’s a common expectation.

A woman performing an eye scan on a male patient during a comprehensive eye exam

Medical Equipment

Other than training, the only thing that prevents an eye doctor from offering certain services or treatments is their equipment. And when it comes to medical equipment, one of the biggest factors is price.

Many private practice owners invest fully in their business and ensure they are offering industry-leading services and treatments. However, this is usually a work in progress and requires some establishment.

On the other hand, an optometry chain often has a large budget to help jumpstart a practice, so they have access to specific equipment as quickly as possible. This leads to the next point about buying power.

Buying Power

There’s a reason that things are often cheaper at a big box store. It isn’t because small businesses are trying to rip off their customers. It all comes down to buying power. When a company can buy products in large amounts, manufacturers will often give them a better deal. Then they can pass some of those savings on to their customers.

It’s no different for optometry clinics. The chain that purchases products and equipment for many offices will typically be able to offer more competitive pricing because of their costs. This is especially true when compared to a private practice that is purchasing for one or two offices. 

Other Differences Worth Mentioning

In addition to these major differences, an optometry chain often has advanced internal infrastructure that helps with staffing, IT-related needs, and practice management. These things don’t necessarily affect the clinic’s patients directly. However, they do typically allow the optometrist to focus more on patient care and less on administrative duties.

Same Care, Just Different

As a general rule, you’re not getting higher-quality eye care at one type of clinic versus another. Ultimately, you should visit a conveniently located clinic that offers an excellent patient experience.

If you want to book an exam or need a new pair of glasses, contact a Total Vision location close to you. You can be sure you’re receiving the same quality of care no matter which one you visit, and our helpful staff is happy to answer all your questions.

Written by Total Vision

At Total Vision, we pride ourselves on ensuring healthy eyes for the whole family and work hard to help all our patients look, feel, and see better. With many locations throughout California, we continue to set new industry standards for professionalism and quality. We empower all our partners to offer leading-edge testing, treatment, and eyewear. With the support of our entire network behind each care provider, patients all over the state can enjoy consistent quality and incredible value.
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