Making an Impact
See how one Houston OD creates a one-of-a-kind, eco-friendly experience
style and substance. That’s what patients experience at Houston’s Eye Impact.
“Style and substance” also certainly describes owner Gary Nguyen, O.D. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, and raised in Mississippi and Texas, the optometrist combined his love of modern design with his love of modern technology to create a practice that is high on service and care.
Dr. Nguyen spends a good half-hour with his patients so he can “connect” with them. His dog, Chloe, often greets them when they walk in the door. And, like any good host, he offers his patients a beverage before they settle into a space that feels more like someone’s über-cool living room than an old-school practice.
Eye Impact is also environmentally friendly—the practice boasts a host of eco-conscious elements. Here, Dr. Nguyen shares the game-changing tenets of his unique business.
Eye Impact’s waiting area
Gary Nguyen, O.D., and Chloe
eb: What is Eye Impact’s philosophy?
gn: I waited a long time—10 years in practice—before striking out on my own. Working for another doctor allowed me to not only understand what it takes to run a practice, but also showed me how I wanted to make my own practice unique.
I wanted my patients to experience something special every time they walk through our doors. I did not want my practice to look or feel like any other doctor’s office. I looked to luxury retailers and even my own living room for inspiration. I wanted a modern, clean feel, but with soul.
Philosophically, my practice is built on these three tenets:
One: The utmost service experience. We strive to really take care of our patients. Little touches like offering bottled water and coffee, complimentary refills on lens cleaner, and steady communication via telephone, email, and text set us apart. We want everyone walking out the door happy and excited for their next visit.
Two: The best patient care and experience facilitated by the latest technology. Patients often remark that our exams are the most comprehensive they have ever experienced.
I spend at least 30 minutes with each patient when doing a routine eye exam. As a personal touch, I do patient history and preliminary testing myself. It gives me a chance to really connect with and understand each patient. Patients also remark they have never seen a lot of the instrumentation we use, like the Icare tonometer, our digital phoropter, Optomap Daytona, and the Visioffice. No NCT or PD sticks for us!
Three: An eco-conscious approach to running the business. My loft is upstairs from my office, so the commute to work is just down the stairs. I was able to incorporate eco-friendly design into the building—zero-VOC paint, tank-less water heater, LED lighting, bamboo cabinetry, recycled glass/mirror countertops, and repurposed fixtures and furniture.
The office is paperless, from the EHR to the electronic credit card receipts. Future plans include roof-mounted solar energy panels. We also have several frame lines that utilize sustainable or recycled materials.
eb: What’s the experience like for your patients when they walk through the door?
gn: Everyone is welcomed in with a warm smile and acknowledged by the staff even if they are attending to another patient.
The waiting room chairs have been replaced by a comfy couch and coffee table. There is no front desk barrier—we use a worktable with workstations—making it feel more spacious and open. I wanted to avoid the us-versus-them mentality that you get from the physical separation of a tall countertop. Patients frequently remark that it feels like they are in someone’s living room.
eb: How do you put together a targeted frame assortment?
gn: Every frame line we include in our collection is carefully curated. I like to go deeper with fewer lines.
Each line offers a unique perspective on eyewear without overlapping the look of another line. I like to look at the color story of each collection to make sure we don’t have random colors that don’t relate back to the rest of the collection. Variety of materials is also important—acetate, titanium, wood, buffalo horn, surgical plastic.
eb: What tips would you offer to other O.D.s or opticians to help them succeed in the optical industry?
gn: Find your niche and run with it. There are so many opticals now that it’s difficult for patients to discern one practice from another. We don’t try to be everything to everyone, but we do what we do really well.
Join a buying group. You get great business advantages and you can get great ideas from other O.D.s.
Invest in good technology. Patients will remember you for it, and it will make your job easier in the long run. Services like Demandforce or Solutionreach are totally worth the money due to the time you save not having to confirm appointments every day.
24 hours in Houston
Dr. Gary Nguyen gives us the lowdown on what to do and see in his hometown.
“Grab a Frisbee-sized croissant or a delicious kugelhopf at Common Bond in Montrose. For lunch, check out the charming Vietnamese bistro Les Ba’get for a lemongrass grilled pork banh mi sandwich dressed with duck pâté and truffle aioli. Explore the story of Houston food at Underbelly, helmed by my pal and James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd. Houston is now the most diverse city in America, and Underbelly showcases this whirlwind of cultures. Be sure to sample the Korean braised goat and dumplings and the house-made charcuterie. Take a bike ride along Buffalo Bayou Park, stopping along the way to explore the breathtaking Waterworks Underground Cistern. At sundown, stop by Rice University to experience the amazing light sculpture James Turrell Skyspace—and the best thing, it’s free!”
Eyecare Business, Volume: 31 , Issue: January 2017, page(s): 32, 34