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BUYER’S FORUM

Being in Focus

BUYER’S FORUM

Being in Focus

Houston optometrist Bimal Patel turns eye care into a concierge experience

Bimal Patel, O.D.

it’s all about you. When patients enter the practice of Bimal Patel, O.D., they can be assured of the optometrist’s full attention.

Dr. Patel doesn’t just pop in for the exam. He performs all the pretesting, does the eyewear and/or contact lens consultation, and even offers his patients their beverage of choice, which may be wine or a cocktail, if they are so inclined.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind experience,” notes Dr. Patel, adding that he strives to make his patients feel special by providing the one-on-one time most other doctors do not. That’s why he called his practice Focus Refined Eye Care.

Operating in Houston’s trendy Montrose district, this O.D. is a native son. He even graduated from the University of Houston College of Optometry (magna cum laude).

He is also very connected to the community and dedicated to giving back. Dr. Patel is active in a number of local organizations. He also donates eyewear to area charities, including the proceeds from sales of Specs of Wood sunglasses to the Montrose Center’s NEST program, which aims to prevent LGBTQ youth homelessness.

Here, Dr. Patel delves into the one-on-one approach of Focus Refined Eye Care and the medical spa services he offers, and dispenses a little advice for young O.D.s branching out on their own.

eb: Your business is quite unique. Can you tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind your practice?

bp: Prior to opening the practice in January, I worked at a very high-volume practice, so when I began Focus, I wanted to make my patients feel special. I spend quality time with my patients.

I do everything from the pretesting and health checkup to the eyewear styling. Patients spend the whole time with me. I schedule my patients on the hour because I don’t want them to have to wait. That’s why I called it Focus.

When patients come in, I offer them their favorite beverage. If it’s in the afternoon hour, I offer them a glass of wine to make them feel comfortable.

I give them a special heated eye massage mask while they are waiting for their eyes to dilate. I will pull frames while they are getting their eyes massaged. Then, I take them out to the dispensary and we work together to find their perfect frame.

It’s not like a typical doctor’s office. Even the waiting area is not like your typical doctor’s office waiting room. It has more of a hotel lobby feel.

You won’t find a typical waiting area at Focus Refined Eye Care

eb: Focus has some pretty cool services. Please tell us a little about them.

bp: We offer orthokeratology contact lenses, which is an optical reshaping technology. They are like a retainer for your eyes. Ortho-Ks are rigid contact lenses that the patient sleeps in. The lenses mold the eye so that when you remove them in the morning, you can see.

I also see a lot of women with eyelash extension problems, so we offer Latisse consultations.

Eventually, I want to offer more services such as Botox and eye yoga. Eye yoga is unique and not talked about much. It’s eye exercises that patients—especially those with mild prescriptions—can do to help with minor vision issues.

eb: What are some of the more interesting trends you’re seeing in the eyewear industry?

bp: A lot of my patients are young professionals in their mid-20s and 30s. They are seeing a lot of eyewear styles online, and those retailers offer great options in terms of prices.

There are a lot of people who would say online retailers like Warby Parker are not good for our profession, but it has focused more people’s attention on eyewear. We compete with them a lot on styles and the trends they are driving.

However, they can’t offer patients a one-of-a-kind experience or give them one-on-one attention. So, it definitely gets my creative juices flowing about what I can be doing differently.

eb: What are some of your best-selling frame brands?

bp: Tom Ford is at the top of list. He is very popular right now. As a designer, he has branded himself very well with his partnership with Lady Gaga. He is my top seller, along with Ted Baker. Zac Posen is another top seller. He creates great red carpet looks. Specs of Wood is a fun and colorful line made from wood—it’s great for patients who are interested in texture and more unusual materials. Ferragamo and Balenciaga are also popular.

I limit the number of frames I carry from a collection to six or seven that I handpick. I price each brand on its own. I don’t individually price each frame. It makes it easier for the patient and me.

eb: What about lenses?

bp: I use Zeiss lenses. They have a good lens portfolio. Zeiss i.Scription lenses are perfect with the type of luxury frames we carry.

eb: How do you like to show off the frame collections in your practice?

bp: I don’t believe in racks. Each frame is unique and deserves its own space. I display frames on glass shelves that are custom made. We have five to six walls of glass shelving to display each brand.

The reception area

eb: Montrose is a pretty happening neighborhood. What aesthetic are your patients looking for in their eyewear?

bp: Most of our customers are young professionals. They have a professional career or a young family. They definitely live in the city. They are not suburban. They go out on weekends and try new restaurants and bars. They want to be on trend, but have a fluid look for work and leisure. They are price conscious and want a good, quality frame.

eb: You’re very active in the community. Why is that important to you?

bp: I love being involved in young professional organizations and great causes in the neighborhood. I want to give back. I believe the more you give back, the more you receive.

I like to go to different community events and donate glasses. A lot of my patients are my neighbors—Montrose is a very tight-knit neighborhood. Everyone looks out for everyone else.

eb: What advice would you offer to young O.D.s who are just branching out?

bp: Know that every day is unpredictable and have a positive attitude. You can’t predict who will come through your door. You need to be mentally prepared. I try to emit pure positive energy. Every day is unpredictable—and that, to me, is exciting.

eb: What do you like to do in your free time?

bp: I love to travel. I just came back from Greece. I love watching and playing tennis. I like attending professional development seminars. I think they are very good for the mind. I like to dig deep into health and personal development.

—Jackie Micucci

Jackie Micucci has covered the eyewear industry for almost 20 years and has written for a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Seattle magazine.