Hometown sophistication found at Family Eye Care
By Mary Matsumoto
Mark Sherry photo
Jennifer Desombre (left), Kathy Meyer and Dr. David Vanderloop are among the team members helping patients at the Family Eye Care facility in Chilton.

Shopping for eyewear?

Suppose you could go somewhere to experience the coziness of a small practice—cookies, fresh coffee, and a comfortable place to sit when you come in—but that also has the sophistication and expertise of a large organization.

Impossible? Not when it comes to Your Eye Care Team at any of its five locations— Family Eye Care in Chilton, New Holstein, and Kiel, Visionary Eye Care in Sheboygan, and Perspective of Cedar Creek Eye Care in Cedarburg.

It might be compared to an extended family unified into one close-knit group. A member clinic is never out of touch no matter how far away it is from the others, geographically speaking. And this is where the customer benefits.

For instance, a resident of Chilton can visit the Family Eye Care facility at 17 E. Main Street to shop for a pair of frames but have a specific style and color in mind. After examining the choices, let’s say he doesn’t find exactly what he had in mind. No problem. He can put in his order for a specific shape and color and come back the next day to try on numerous pairs forwarded from one or more of Your Eye Care Team’s other clinics. In fact, in the future, links from the company’s website will make it possible for the customer to view all the frames available at any location online.

After all, glasses aren’t just to correct vision; they make a fashion statement as well.

“They really are like an accessory,” said Karin Wille, manager of clinic operations. They’re like jewelry for your face. They enhance your best features, and yet they help you to see.”

Some customers shop for multiple pairs—one for dressy occasions, one for casual and a pair to wear with jeans.

And with its five locations, Your Eye Care Team is able to pass the savings from ordering in larger quantities on to its customers.

Own lab an advantage

Of course, picking out frames might be the fun part, but the lens is the most critical part of eye wear. The fact that Your Eye Care Team has its own lab in its Sheboygan clinic makes it possible to produce a high-quality product in about a week or so—even more quickly if the customer has an urgent need. The frames and prescription go right to the lab where the lenses are installed on site. They arrive back to the clinic ready for a few minor adjustments before the customer walks out the door.

The team at the clinic does all it can to make the process as painless and easy as possible. As soon as they come through the door, patients are greeted by the receptionist at check in. The insurance information is collected and processed quickly by a knowledgeable member of the staff. Then, they are taken to a private exam room where a staff member will question them about their medical history and enter that into the computer—no complicated forms to fill out—Your Eye Care Team clinics are paperless.

Finally, one of organization’s four doctors will conduct the exam, which often includes a dilated eye exam.

“We’re not looking just at the prescription and selling the patient glasses,” said owner and team leader, Dr. Cheryl Roers. “We want to make sure their eyes are healthy. We’re checking for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye diseases or problems.”

But that’s not all.

“The only place in the body where you can look directly at blood vessels as they work, without opening the skin, is in the eye,” she said.

That being the case, the doctor can learn a lot about the patient’s circulation, blood pressure, and cholesterol simply by examining the eye. Often diabetes can be detected early in this way, and the eye doctor will refer the patient to his general practitioner for immediate attention, before the disease gets out of control.

Doctor saves a life

In fact, Dr. Tracey Strombeck, another part of the team, was able to detect plaques in some of the vessels in one of her patient’s eyes, indicating a condition that could lead to a stroke. Dr. Strombeck sent him to his cardiologist, who told the patient, “You should thank your eye doctor for saving your life.”

With four different doctors working together on the same team, each with his own forte, not only can each doctor draw from the strengths of his colleagues, but patients can benefit from the variety of expertise as well.

Take Dr. Roers, for instance. She has years of experience in all aspects of optometry even before beginning her business in 2004, but she has a special interest in the senior population and their needs, focusing on cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Dr. Strombeck, who completed a residency in pediatrics, loves working with children.

Dr. David Vanderloop, who received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, likes to delve deep into medical problems. And then there’s Dr. Jane Bachman who works part-time in the Cedarburg clinic while practicing at the medical college at Froedtert in Milwaukee, exposing herself to medical research and teaching.

Home base, but travel

Except for Dr. Bachman who practices solely in Cedarburg, the other doctors each have a home base while traveling to company’s other clinics as well. This allows them to become familiar with different geographical areas and different types of patients, broadening their experiences and giving patients the opportunity to work with different doctors.

When a patient needs surgery, ophthalmologist Dr. Douglas Salm, who has partnered with the eye care team, sees patients at the New Holstein location and performs surgery at Calumet Medical Center in Chilton. This saves patients the hassle of traveling back and forth from Appleton for surgery and post-operative care. Elderly patients especially appreciate this feature.

After surgery, Drs. Roers and Vanderloop handle the patients’ post-operative care either the same day or the next and continue to see them until they are fully recovered. In that way, patients can be assured their needs will be completely attended to with as little hassle as possible.

“Our focus is on our customers,” said Karin.

She added that at times the staff has been known to even drive patients to appointments or carry glasses to nursing homes to make adjustments. Recently, a parent dropped off glasses for his child. He mentioned that she got headaches when she wasn’t wearing them, but they were broken so he was hoping for a quick repair. Not only were the glasses repaired at no charge, but one of the staff delivered the glasses to the girl at her school later that day.

“That’s what you do in a small town,” said Karin. “People are your neighbors and friends. You help them out. When you come in to our clinics, you’re going to be treated like you’re part of our family.”

For a patient new to contacts, the staff is ready to walk him through the process of putting them in and taking them out and explain how to care for their contacts. But what happens when that patient gets home? Will he remember what he learned? The Your Eye Care Team website has a video he can access to refresh his memory.

Clinics work as one

Since she joined the team in June last year, Karin has been working to tie the five locations together. Until she arrived, the job fell into Dr. Roers’ hands.

“What I like to do most is see patients,” said Dr. Roers. “I don’t like to do all the other administrative things. Karin has taken a lot of that off my plate so I have more time to attend to patients.”

When Karin first entered the picture, she encountered five clinics, each having joined the group at a different time, bringing with them their own policies different from other clinics in the group. Now, having spent time at each facility, Karin has been able to observe the best of the bunch and draw up policies to fit the organization as a whole, uniting the entire team and putting the best practices into place.

Besides that, Karin observes the staff themselves, identifying the key players, and puts these in charge of training new members of the team. In addition, she organizes staff meetings to provide training in an enjoyable atmosphere.

The internet has been a great tool to connect the five offices as well. By summer, they hope to have one central data base. In addition, the organization is now united by a social platform similar to Facebook called Yammer. The big difference is that while Facebook is open to anyone, Yammer is open only to those who are part of the Your Eye Care Team.

“It looks a lot like Facebook, but it’s actually a secure site that only our team can access,” said Karin.

Only those with the company’s email system can join. Members can post to the entire community or send individual messages. There are groups, like an optician group and a front desk group, so they can have conversations relative to their work. The system will serve to further unite the team—19 members to act as if they were one person with the central goal to serve the patient as effectively as they can.

All this being the case, when you enter one of the five locations, it’s as if you’re entering one room of a much bigger house, one that has the warmth and coziness of a small town with the sophistication and expertise of a much bigger community.

“This office,” said Karin of the Chilton location, “is just one piece of our big puzzle.”

Chilton Family Eye Care, located at 17 E. Main St., can be reached at 849-4642. New Holstein Family Eye Care is located at 1405 Milwaukee Dr. (849-4642). Kiel Family Eye Care is located at 500 Fremont St. (894-2727). Evening and Saturday hours are available. Check hours on their website: http://www.youreyecareteam.com/