Each year, we analyze the vision network data in our database and publish the results. Take a look at what we learned last year. Like 2015, 2016 brought growth across the board in the 10 largest vision networks: more providers in more networks that look more alike.
Over five years, access points grew the most, 50%, followed by unique providers at 32% and unique locations at 13%. Two possible reasons for the lag in location growth is that retail locations, such as big-box stores and wholesale clubs, offer more revenue with fewer providers and online options to fulfill eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions are increasing.
The average number of locations per provider remained about the same year over year – 2.36 vs. 2.32. This is probably a reflection of network consolidation: Superior Vision completed the integration of the Block Vision network late in 2016.
Another measure of growth that we’ve been tracking for several years is the number of networks the average provider participates in. On average, providers belonged to 3.6 networks in 2016, which is slightly down from 3.7 in 2015, and an increase of 17% in the last five years. Eye care providers (ECPs) belong to less than half the number of networks as dentists (8.3 networks in 2016) which is most likely another reflection of the consolidated nature of the vision market compared to the dental market.
The final trend we analyze is the distribution of providers by the number of networks they participate in. In 2016, 35% of ECPs are in 4-6 networks while only 23% were in 2011. The shift from accepting 1-3 networks to 4-6 for ECPs leads to greater overlap between vision networks causing less disruption if employer groups opt to change networks.
How are these trends affecting your business? When you talk to ECPs, are they more interested in joining your network than they have been in the past? How are you maintaining the uniqueness of your network?