Industry Spotlight: Beye.com

In this Industry Spotlight, Gary Wörtz, MD, sits down with David Cox, Stefanie Dolan, and Laura O'Connor to shed light on Beye.com, a new online marketplace for eye care professionals that seeks to deliver a simplified shopping experience backed by peer reviews and online learning. The team explains the potential for Beye to streamline the product research and purchase process by providing detailed specifications, comparison tools, how-to videos, and user reviews.

Speaker 1: Ophthalmology off the Grid is supported by Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Inc., bringing dropless therapy to cataract surgery and LessDrops for post-LASIK and other ocular surgeries. For more information, visit the websites godropless.com and lessdrops.com.

Gary Wörtz: Open, outspoken, it's Ophthalmology off the Grid. An honest look at controversial topics in the field. I'm Gary Wörtz. This is Dr. Gary Wörtz with Ophthalmology off the Grid, and today I have David Cox, Laura O'Connor, and Stefanie Dolan with me, talking about beye.com. I just have to start, David, with you. I want to know the story. Where did beye.com come from? How did you get this idea?

David Cox: Alright, thanks Gary. It goes back probably about 4 or 5 years ago. I was walking down the exhibit hall on a Monday mid-day at the American Academy of Ophthalmology. I'm not really sure what city we were in, but we were in the exhibit hall, and I ran into Andy Corley, who at that time was running Bausch + Lomb Surgical, and a guy named Sean Carney, who was working for Warburg Pincus, who, at the time, owned Bausch + Lomb. We were walking down the aisle, and I said, "Wow, where did all the doctors go? There sure aren’t a lot of doctors in here."

We're looking at these gigantic exhibits that—you know what they cost—they cost a lot of money. When we got to the Bausch + Lomb booth, there was probably about 40 B + L folks all talking to each other having coffee, kind of just chitchatting. They're theater in the booth was empty. I just said to Andy, I go, "Is this really effective, this way of selling and meeting doctors and showing them how products work and all that?" I go, “You know, this system seems not that great." And Andy goes, "Yeah, I'd have to agree with you, David. I think it's broken." And I go, "Yeah, it's definitely broken."

That sort of gave me the idea there has to be a better way. There has to be a digital better way to do this. Obviously, Amazon, eBay, and sites like CNET, which are great as far as going and reviewing products in the electronics field—all those things play a role here, and you just kind of see, like alright, here's where things are going and this is what we can do, and that is really how we came up with the idea for Beye. It just takes it a little while to get it going sometimes, as you probably know, Gary.

Gary Wörtz: Yeah, absolutely. Well, if it was the AAO 4 years ago, that was Orlando, and good things happened for me at that meeting as well. You know, I think that you guys really hit the nail on the head, that the way consumers are processing decision-making and doing their due diligence has really shifted in every other area over the past 5 to 10 years. Now, if I want to buy something, I'm going to go on Amazon and I'm going to look at a few different products, I'm going to read the reviews, I'm going to purchase it, and, because I'm a Prime member, it's going to show up 2 days later. It's so much more efficient for me to do that. I've got access to so many more options, and I think in ophthalmology, we have really needed something like this.

Having heard the Beye backstory from David, I next wanted to see how the site functions, so I spoke with Laura O'Connor, Director of Digital Technologies, and Stef Dolan, Vice President at Beye, to learn more. It's a real pleasure, I've known both of you all for a while just through various meetings, and MillennialEYE and other contacts.

It's a real pleasure, I've known both of you all for a while just through various meetings, and MillennialEYE, and other contacts. It was interesting, I got to hear a little bit about what you all were up to, I don't know, maybe 6 months ago, maybe a year ago. This has been something that's been in the works for a while. I know you all have been working really hard behind the scenes, and beye.com is here and ready. Laura, maybe just start off by telling us a little bit about what is beye.com, and how did this idea come to fruition?

Laura O'Connor: Well, the people who started beye.com are the same people that started Eyetube and the other Bryn Mawr Communications publications. Through our interactions with the physicians on Eyetube, we saw a lot of people asking how they can purchase products, where are these things available? There was a need to fill a gap of how to purchase products that are kind of new and innovative and kind of just starting out. We also had conversations with doctors about how difficult it was to outfit a new surgical suite or a new center.

There's just so many products to consider, and it's sometimes difficult to figure out what's available, what's going to work best, and just kind of start that research process. So, we endeavored to create a website that would simplify that process. It would provide an objective comparison of all the products in ophthalmology that are available, the specifications, images, and user reviews.

Gary Wörtz: Well and I think that's such a unique feature and unique functionality for a website in ophthalmology that is really needed. For a long time, when you want to buy a piece of equipment, you typically have to go to the ASCRS, or AAO, or one of the big meetings and you kind of walk around and go from booth to booth, and try out the technology, talk to the reps, maybe see your local reps if they're there, get information from colleagues who maybe stopping on the showroom floor to try and get some advise, but that process can be really overwhelming, especially if you’re either just starting an office or if you’re going through a major expansion. I've been in both of those positions. I started a practice from scratch and had to outfit an entire office with new equipment. Currently, I'm in a practice that is expanding both our ORs and our number of lanes. You’re exactly right: The process of trying to find the right technology, not just technology that will work, but really the right technology for your specific practice, that's pretty intimidating to be honest.

Honestly, I've been on the website and looking around, and the quality of the education on there is pretty impressive. Looking at the user reviews, for example, Jack Holladay talking about the HD Analyzer or Mitch Weikert describing the differences between Placido disc or Scheimpflug or OCT-based corneal imaging—that is the kind of education that you really need if you’re thinking about investing a lot of money in technology.

Also, Stefanie maybe you can speak to this a little bit, it seems like this is going to be a platform that's going to expand the reach of companies to maybe some of those folks who don't go to all the big meetings or maybe can't make it to a meeting or two but still want to know about the new products. Would you agree?

Stefanie Dolan: Absolutely. We created beye.com to help ease the product research process for ophthalmologists, optometrists, practice and ASC administrators, nurses, technicians, really anybody who touches product within practice. So, Gary, like you mentioned, the site is comprehensive. We have over 800 products now, and we're adding products on a weekly basis. The site's easy to navigate. There's a training component that we're excited to launch in 2016. From a user perspective, after you've completed research and training and are ready to purchase, you can go ahead and do that right on beye.com as well.

But, yes, the core principle of Beye is to provide education and awareness to eye care professionals and that includes members of our community that may not attend the meetings. We do welcome them to Beye to find more information on new product. Then from a company or vendor standpoint, Beye is a place where smaller companies can really stand out and have a presence among their peers. Based on initial metrics, it seems the site was needed. It's being really well received. We've had consistent month-over-month growth across the board, so that's everything from new registrants, to the amount of time the users have been spending on the site, to the number of user reviews posted to product pages. We've been tracking all of this since our soft launch in April 2015. We're really excited to see where things go in 2016.

Gary Wörtz: Well, and what's really interesting to me, is this is really running the gamut from even buying supplements for sale potentially at your office to patients, to keratometry, to OCTs, to laser systems, viscoelastic devices, microscopes, it really is ... it's really robust. Sometimes I’ve found, because I've practiced in a couple different areas, that there's sort of practice patterns or patterns in terms of what people buy based on what region you’re in because that's where you trained and you’re used to a certain instrument or a certain product line because that's what you were trained with or that's what was at the office that you purchased. This really seems like it's a way to expand people's horizons. Maybe you would have never considered buying an OPD III, for example, but looking at the reviews … and, to be honest, that is something: I went on beye.com and just read all the reviews about how the Marco OPD III has really helped people's cataract practices. We are really considering getting into that technology partially because I've seen that it's not just these advertisements, it's really people talking about what does this product do for them, why is it important, and how is it making a difference in their practice?

I think you’re exactly right, Laura, when you said earlier on the Eyetube videos, it's great to see the videos of the techniques, but it is also really nice to know, where did you get that? What video system are you using? What are the products that you’re using? Because it's not always about technique; sometimes it's also about coupling the technique with the right technology. What's coming up for beye.com in the next, say, 3 to 6 months? I know we're kind of at the beginning of this process. You said that the e-Commerce is set up. Where does Beye go from here? From kind of the launch through the next 3 to 6 months. What do you hope to accomplish, and what do you hope that Beye becomes?

Laura O'Connor: Well, one small integration that will be launching shortly, is an integration between Eyetube and the other BMC publication websites. When you do see an instrument or a diagnostic tool used in a video, it'll say exactly what’s used in that case.

Gary Wörtz: Excellent.

Laura O'Connor: You can click on that link, and it'll take you to Beye so you can see more information on the user reviews related to that.

Stefanie Dolan: In addition to the integration Laura mentioned, over the last 8 months, we've been dedicated to building site content and developing trust. We've invited users to interact with beye.com to become familiar with the site, through our social media and e-marketing. We were encouraging site visits, site registration, and user reviews. It's essential to us that our users are confident in our content and come to rely on Beye as their go-to product research website.

Now, in addition to Beye providing really great, unbiased content, users can also purchase their products through Beye. Right now, we're featuring two Wiley instruments manufactured by Bausch + Lomb Storz, the APX 200 Pupil Expander, the Cassini device, and more. The products mentioned are available to the US market only, and if available to you, you'll see an “add to cart” button on the mentioned product listing page. We do have quite a few new e-commerce partners that we're launching in Q1 2016 that we're very excited about.

To all the listeners, we invite you to register for beye.com and then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can be in the know when it comes to Beye's newest partnerships and announcements.