Dr. Jeffrey Whitman is the president of the expanding Key-Whitman Eye Center. The center’s chief surgeon visited with D Healthcare Daily media partner David Johnson’s CEO Spotlight on KRLD. Learn about the company’s new 35,000 square foot headquarters, which it believes will help accommodate increasing volume and research initiatives.
David Johnson: So you’re a businessman, you’re a doctor, you delegate. And you’re also building a new headquarters. A 35,000 square feet headquarters.
Dr. Jeffrey Whitman: Right. Over twice the size of where our current headquarters over on Lemmon.
Johnson: This big build is a state of the art medical facility. What is state of the art now?
Whitman: The thing I like about Ophthalmology now more than ever before is that we have all these new toys and lasers and things that have changed in the last five years where we have newer lasers to do Lasik with that make it safer and more predictable. We can do it in maybe half or a quarter of the time. So now it’s good for those babies who said, ‘I don’t want my eyes touched.’ We can really make it easy for them now.
And cataract surgery – the high technology implant lens we have now that allow people to see distance, close up, without having to rely on glasses all the time. It’s really, pretty amazing stuff. The new center is actually going to have a full research facility because we’ve been in involved in research so we can bring new products to our patients before anybody else gets them.
Johnson: This rapid evolution in your business, some of it has to be a function of demographics.
Whitman: We have a burgeoning population wanting better vision and they want it at an earlier age now. People are not waiting like grandma and great granddad did before they really couldn’t see. When vision starts to go, people can’t see up close anymore, they’re coming to see us earlier and that’s part of what promulgated our move. We actually did a marketing study to see what our patients wanted. And one is they wanted more convenience, hence the move. Technically, we’re probably only 12 or 13 minutes up Central Expressway from where we were on Lemmon but it’s more central, it’s easier to get to, and very visible.
Another thing patients ask for – we’re going to have lots of free parking because we’re Uptown and if you go up Uptown you know that it’s hard to find parking at a lot of places. So lots of free parking, free valet parking. Part of the new demographic is catering to what the patient’s wants and needs are.
We also are finding ways through new technology that will be available in our new office to help them save time because the other thing that patients complain about, number one in doctor offices not just our office, is wait time. So we actually have a computer-tracking system now so we know where are patients are. We can see where bottlenecks are so we can hopefully solve those and speed things up. We know to the minute how long each patients there, how long they’re in each area, how long the doctor spends with them, etc.
We even have technology that will allow us to take a picture of the back of your eye without dilating the eye. We have a new system called Optos so we can do that. We are one of the few people in Texas that has the system.
Johnson: Have the insurance companies come around on these changes?
Whitman: Most things are covered. Things that are not that we really think help the patient we either find ways to do it very low cost or if we can, even do them at no cost. Things that we can do to rate how much cataract somebody has, we don’t really charge for that technology. Other things that prevent dilation, we have a very lost cost for those. It’s really hard for insurance companies to want to pay more for things these days, but we look at this for patients who want high technology lens implants when they have their cataract surgery done. We look at what insurance covers for them as a discount because they get that coverage and whatever extra there is to pay for that high technology implant becomes very affordable.
Johnson: Have you priced a pair of glasses lately? If an insurance company could make a one-time investment in somebody’s eye…
Whitman: You think about someone who wears a daily wear contact lens or a disposable contact lens and you just look over 5 years, I’m not talking 10 to 15 years, Lasik becomes much cheaper than doing that. The majority of our patients that pick that; we can put them in a lens implant if their eyes are healthy to where they rarely have to wear glasses afterwards.
And one of our newest things is the cost of medication after cataract surgery – now it can run over $400 and you have to put drops in three or four times a day for a number of weeks afterwards. Not an easy thing to do or remember to do. Now we have what we call our ‘No Drop or Less Drop’ option where we can actually inject the medication at the end of their surgery so they don’t have to use drops after the surgery.
Johnson: Five years from now, what’s coming?
Whitman: Changes and greater safety in what we can do with lens implants. And one of the things that driving people to have their cataract surgery earlier rather than waiting for their vision to get real bad is because it’s becoming safer and what we can do for the eye is so much better. The other thing that we’ve been involved in research on is what we call corneal implants that can treat Presbyopia, a reading vision problem that hits us when we turn 40. We have inlays that we can actually put within the corneal tissue itself in an approximate ten-minute procedure and bring their reading vision back. All those aren’t approved right now, but, again, in the next couple of years we’ll have more options to give them better reading vision.