Regional vision centers reach out to diverse population

While it may look different from the other locations, Fall River uses the same 'plan-a-gram' that the other locations use for the frame display.

H. Jay Carney, Eye Health Vision Centers' chief development officer and facilities manager, estimated that 60% of the staff at Eye Health Vision Centers is Portuguese-speaking, reflecting the prominence of this ethnic group in two of the communities which Eye Health Vision Centers serves. Additional locations of the regional chain are Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and Taunton, MA, and Middletown, RI.

Eye Health Vision Centers began in 1975 with its original New Bedford, MA, office, which was subsequently relocated to the adjacent town of Dartmouth. Fall River is considered a sister city to New Bedford; approximately 3% of the patient population at the Dartmouth office were residents of Fall River, according to Carney.

However, Carney added that the Fall River market is very competitive. "There are 15 to 20 practices, unlike in Dartmouth where there are three major offices. In Fall River, there is not one dominant practice. It's a much more splintered market," said Carney.

Prior to the opening of the most recent office, a billboard in Fall River had been a referral source for several laser vision correction patients a month. "Now, the location in Fall River allows us to recruit additional surgeries to our Dartmouth surgery center," said Carney.

Part of the community

To help build strong community partnerships, three Portuguese-speaking doctors staff the new Fall River location: Claudio A. Ferreira, MD, Lisa A. Marques, OD, and Andrea Faustino Odle, OD.

Additionally, marketing efforts are created specifically for and directed at the Portuguese community. "We run ads on the Portuguese TV channel-especially during the popular soap operas-on local radio, and in the local newspaper," said Carney. "We recently sent out a direct mail campaign to all 5,000 households within the zip code in which the office is located offering further special discounts."

While effective communication is both an incentive for patients and a strong marketing tool, Eye Health Vision Centers goes farther to help fill specific needs of the community.

"We promote affordable eyewear for our working-class customers," said Carney. "We have a program called 'Specs for Less,' through which we offer complete single-vision glasses for $99, bifocals for $109, and progressive no-line bifocals for $159." Additionally, patients enrolled in MassHealth, a public health insurance program for eligible low- and medium-income residents of Massachusetts, are afforded a further $10 per pair discount off the program prices.

"The practice has also enjoyed success promoting sales of its private label 'Vejo' frames, which in Portuguese means 'I see' or 'I can see,'" noted Carney. "In fact, 30% of our overall optical sales consists of Vejo frames."