The healthcare industry typically falls short of providing a quality patient-centric experience. Unfortunately, this pushes many people to consult Dr. Google instead of actually seeing a physician. David Metz discusses possible solutions to this alarming situation with Dr. Brianna Rhue, Co-Founder of Dr. Contact Lens, TechifEYE And Myopia Patrol. She talks about equipping medical providers with the necessary technological skills to make healthcare services more accessible to the public. She also explains how to take care of healthcare professionals properly so they can spend enough time with patients without putting their financial well-being at stake.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Brianna Rhue: Co-Founder Of Dr. Contact Lens, TechifEYE And Myopia Patrol
In this episode, we have Optometrist and CEO, Brianna Rhue. Welcome, Brianna.
Thanks for having me.
Thanks for coming. The format is pretty simple. I’m going to ask you six questions so those that are at home can get a better sense of you and the journey that you’ve been on. Does that sound good?
I’m looking forward to it.
You are both an entrepreneur and an optometrist. What do you think came first, your love for entrepreneurialism or optometry?
It’s the love for entrepreneurialism. My father was a small business owner. I always loved the business side of everything, but I also wanted for a long time since second grade to be a doctor. I also didn’t want to do surgery or be in a hospital setting and wanted to be my own boss, so optometry has merged the two. Launching a company outside of a need that I saw in my own practice has now escalated my entrepreneurial journey. That’s what merged the two together.
What was your dad’s business?
He was a furniture salesman. He had a shop where he built it and then he had a store where he sold it. I’m handy on one end and can sell on the other end. I’ve learned a lot by osmosis from him, not understanding what he was teaching me. I have always known that I was a salesman, even as a doctor. We’re all salesmen. It’s a bad word in a lot of circles, especially in mine. It’s interesting because we get to be a doctor on one side where the patient is a patient, and then we have a consumer side to our business. Now we get to focus on both of those. It’s interesting in my circle how people look at it.
Did you work for your dad’s store?
Of course, I did. I’m seeing him work with his hands a lot. The leadership skills where he couldn’t let go or hold people accountable and had to be in the weeds of his business. I’ve been able to take that and work on my business instead of in my business. That’s an interesting skill.
Which part did your dad like best and which part did you like best? Did he like the building of the furniture or the selling of the furniture?
He liked the winning and dealing.
It’s because you get that high when you close a deal and sell a piece of furniture. It’s like, “This is amazing.”
One funny story about him is every Saturday he was there at the store and learned a lot about money as a tool, not as something that you hoard or hold onto. It’s there to utilize it. Even in my own business here, because I deal a lot with children and parents, and high-level services of care where I have to sell the service. He taught me the one-leger or two-leger story.
On Saturdays, if one person would come in, “Do you have to go?” He’s like, “No, it’s just a one-leger,” meaning that they’re going to be able to get out of the sale. If he has a couple walked in, he is like, “I got to go. I got a two-leger,” because he knew that he can close it that much easier. I’ve been able to implement that strategy within my own practice. It’s one of the best things I’ve learned from him as far as sales skills. Even when my husband and I walk into like a furniture store, it’s so funny, I was like, “Here we are, this two-leger couple.” His perspective is fun.
In terms of when patients come in, how often do they have already been on Google? They think they know what they’re saying. They’ve done their research and are like, “I need this. I think it’s that.” It’s like, “Why are you here?” My wife is a doctor. She’s a dermatologist. She always says, “They see Dr. Google before they see me.” They’re like, “I think it’s this.” She’s like, “Then why are you here? I went to school for many years.” Do you get the same thing?
Yeah. It is just becoming patient-centric and getting back to communication and listening. They think that they’re the only ones with the problem. They think we’re concerned with what we have now. It has especially been ingrained in our DNA now to present that. Patients find us with their vision plan or their insurance covers that, and then they find us through Google having good reviews, and then they come in.
I understand where the patient is coming from. It does get frustrating as a doctor when people come in here, “This is the best eye exam I’ve ever had. Can I have a copy of my prescription to go elsewhere?” You’re like, “That was fun.” There’s a life cycle here. As the doctor, you take care of your staff, which has been more difficult than ever. The staff takes excellent care of your patients. In turn, the patient takes care of you. If we keep cutting this doctor-patient relationship out, everybody on that path loses. We have to make the patients understand that little cycle and where they live.Doctors must take care of their staff, the staff takes care of the patients, and the patient takes care of you. If we keep cutting the doctor-patient relationship out, everyone on that path losses. Click To Tweet
Do you think reviews are good, bad or indifferent? People can use it as a weapon. It could be good for the business. There are certainly unfair reviews. I’m sure you’ve seen the full spectrum. Where do you fall out on it?
I wish it was like Uber where you could rate the patient, but it’s not. You have the HIPAA police and all of this other stuff. I implemented reviews around 2009, so it’s very early. Why I did it was to honestly hold my staff accountable. They didn’t know who was walking in and out. You don’t know if that person got cut off on their way here or what they’re dealing with on a personal level. It’s not a personal attack I would say on reviews. It’s a way for you to see the holes in your business and improve, and be like a duck. Let it roll off. Everybody has their say in everything. I always laugh at the South Park episode of the Yelper review. It’s just that. It’s good, bad and indifferent.
That’s a great attitude. How much did graduating and starting your business during the recession impact you?
I graduated from high school in 2000. There was that whole Y2K, everything is going to collapse, and then in 2009, it’s also the same thing. Honestly, I didn’t know what a recession looked like because I was able to find a good job and build it up. Again, you can only control what you can control. The news and all the chatter and all of this, if you get back to love, communication, taking care of people and each other, then that’s the other dialogue.
You have to be careful with what you put in your brain and head, and what you focus on. I’m a true believer in, “I can’t control what’s happening in the world, but I can control what’s happening in my people, my brain, my circle, and move that forward.” I’m a positive junkie at one point and that’s the only place that you can live.
I agree, especially in your field, you are solving a problem. It’s not a luxury. As long as you provide a good product and service, the rest will take care of itself. It feels like healthcare professionals have less and less time to spend with patients, and they need to see more and more to make up the difference and be squeezed. Do you see a future where healthcare workers can spend enough time with patients and still not suffer financially or this is where the future is going? It’s becoming like mills, get them in quickly and get them out because the margins are getting tighter and tighter. Do you feel that? Do you see that? What do you see are potential solutions to that?
It’s coming down to a couple of things here. One is we are being squeezed. I haven’t gotten a raise from a vision plan in over twenty years. When a patient sits in my chair again and says, “This is the best eye exam I’ve ever had. Can I have my prescription to go online and order or go to one of these other websites?” Essentially, the patients are hurting themselves. I don’t like to live on the defense, “Please order from me. I’m a small business. I have mouths to feed.” I hate that model. That’s where Dr. Contact Lens was born.
What we have to do is we have to implement technology to get our staff to do better things. We have to train them better so I can spend the time face-to-face and not typing into a computer. The EMRs or electronic medical records have to get smarter. They have to start talking to each other because of all the paperwork that we have to do.
The doctor is a pawn in all of this. If we can’t get this doctor-patient relationship back front and center, and everybody wants to cut it out, “Get your eye exam online.” There’s more to vision than just refraction. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve diagnosed tumors, diabetes, hypertension or something serious going on with the visual system. Your vision makes up 60% of your brain. If you give that away to someone that doesn’t care and gets it cheaper, it doesn’t help you.
Also, we are seeing this big push into specialization, which also isn’t good either because now it’s all about the masses and taking care of that. I totally understand. I’m a small business owner first that happens to be a doctor. I’m not a doctor that happens to be a small business owner. There have to be some more teachings on all of this. I’m married to a neuro-ophthalmologist and seeing how much they have to pump through is not fun. It’s exhausting and wearing. We’re not truly taking care of the physician. You got to flip it a little bit on who is being taken care of in order to take care of other people. We have to do a better job there.
I live in New York and there are a ton of private practices that don’t take insurance. Do you see that trend continuing?
It seems like it’s more and more if you live in an area that can do that.
It’s brainwashing. You pay this exponential amount for insurance and are brainwashed to think, “I’m going to only go to what my insurance was,” but yet you’re going to spend $1,000 on a phone, you’re not going to spend $100 on an eye exam. It’s all about priorities and what you think is important. One thing too, dentists have done a good job like every six months. Your teeth are freaking replaceable. Your vision is not. You get two eyes, maybe one. Everyone comes in with the same frame that’s fit poorly. That’s your face. That’s what you put forward to everyone looking at you. Make sure your glasses are clean and fit properly. That’s what you put on first thing in the morning. That’s how you should feel.
I go twice a year, but I have a dirty little secret. I am so bad. I have daily disposables, but sometimes I wear them for a couple of months without taking them out.
Do you change your underwear daily, David?
Trust me, everyone said, “Are you crazy?” I’m maybe just lazy. I don’t know, but I’m terrible.
They’re like dirty underwear.
That’s probably the most powerful thing that someone said because now I’m like, “I want to take these out.” If you weren’t in medicine, what would you be doing other than furniture sales?
I would be somewhere in the healthcare environment. That’s where I’ve been able now to develop a tech company within the eyecare space. It has been fun. I would have been still maybe in a larger corporation climbing that corporate ladder of some nature somewhere. Maybe pharmaceutical sales or something in the healthcare space.
I love the tech journey. It has been fun. Women-owned tech, seeing a problem, building it, and having to sell it to my colleagues has been interesting as well. Now, I’ve flipped the script on what I do on a daily basis.
From a tech perspective, it can be overwhelming and complicated because it’s evolving all the time. I always think it’s funny they teach Computer Science in college for four years, but after four years it has evolved into something else. It’s moving so quickly. The disruption happens on a yearly basis. Many years ago, it would happen every thousand years. It is so quick now. You are being exposed to that world. Has it been eye-opening?
To say the least, yes. It has been fun. My saying here is the disruptors, being optometrists in my scenario, can become the disruptees that were just lazy. When it comes to change and comfort, they can’t coexist. The only constant in the universe is change. You got to keep up. That’s what we’re on this path to do. As soon as you get comfortable, you and I both know that it’s a very dangerous place to live.
You have to keep learning, growing, doing demos, and trying stuff. I’ve been burned probably like yourself on early adoption, but I’ve also gotten way more wins than I have losses. It’s important that you keep innovating for yourself. As soon as you graduate from optometry school, that’s where your learning starts. It’s not where it stops. It’s the same thing for Computer Science. You have to keep adding. Starting this company in 2016 and being ripe when the pandemic hit to take off was invigorating. It gives you a chance to consciously work on your business. You got to take time to do that.
You’re selling to colleagues, but you’re solving problems that you’re facing yourself. How many times during a week that you’re like, “This needs to be solved?” You’re like, “Let’s do one thing at a time really well,” because you have that entrepreneurial spirit. Is it hard to keep that tame being like, “Let’s focus on that. We’ll solve that one later.”
I do wear both hats. There’s that visionary hat that you have to have on where you can spend things into what you already have. That’s what we’ve been able to do with Dr. Contact Lens. What’s interesting is when I’m selling to my colleagues, seeing all the leaky buckets that each of these practices has, we’re all stuck making a pretty decent wage where it could be double if you invested five minutes a day. It’s hard now selling to my colleagues because at some points I feel like I care more about their businesses than they do, just like we talked about reviews. They’ll post on these forms and they’re like, “I got this bad review.” You have 40 other good ones that you got in the last two weeks.
Don’t live in the negative, respond to it, and move forward. Use it as a growth lesson. It goes back to being patient-centric. It’s our healthcare. As a patient, you own it. It’s your life. We’re getting smarter at wanting to own that information and being able for everything to communicate. That’s where the healthcare system has let people down. It’s because they want to keep them sick. They want to keep them coming back. We have to empower the patient. That starts with the patient empowering the doctor too, so they can keep investing.The healthcare system wants people to be sick so they will keep coming back. We have to empower the patient, and that starts with the patient empowering the doctor too. Click To Tweet
Can you reply to reviews? You can say, “I’m sorry you had a bad visit,” and is that good practice to always reply?
Yes. It’s also good practice to respond to the good too.
Good or bad, what’s the strangest interaction you’ve had with the patient?
Besides being sued?
I mean patients fall asleep, etc.
I’m in the dark all day. People get a little weird in the dark. It’s interesting, the comments that you get. One person is like, “You don’t have to dilate me. All I have to do is look at you, doctor.” “We’re going to use the stronger drops this time.” People get a little weird sometimes. You have to have the comebacks and be ready for it. They’re in an uncomfortable and vulnerable spot. When you’re in that spot like when people get on airplanes, they get a little strange. You have to be confident in what you’re doing and providing. We’re all here to be on this journey together, weird or not.
The last question is completely outside of the main topic. If you could get a buy one, get one free of anything, what would you get?
A trip around the world.
Do you like to travel?
Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
It’s been Hawaii, Portugal, and all of it. I love the beach and mountains or the combination of everything. I would love to go to Thailand.
If you can have a beach house or a mountain house with skiing and hiking, what would you pick?
We’re going to combine both of them. That’s what Hawaii is for.
Fair enough, but no skiing in Hawaii.
No, that’s why I would need two houses.
Yes, that’s the goal. Brianna, I appreciate you taking the time to chat. Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Stay curious, everybody.
About Brianna Rhue
Brianna Rhue earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona before earning her Doctorate of Optometry at Nova Southeastern University. She completed her residency at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami and is a partner at West Broward Eyecare in South Florida.
Dr. Rhue is passionate about health care technology, myopia management, specialty contact lens fits and practice management. She enjoys sharing her love for technology and myopia management through speaking engagements to help optometrists understand business, technology and new areas of care to help all parties involved.
Dr. Rhue is the immediate past president of the Broward County Optometric Association. She is the co-founder of Dr. Contact Lens, TechifEYE and Myopia Patrol. Outside the office, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, playing tennis, standing on her head in yoga and traveling.