Home Walmart/Sams Club Community ODs Making Eye Care Accessible and Convenient

Making Eye Care Accessible and Convenient

Dr. Hayley Williams talks about the importance of providing people with access to eye care
Dr. Williams

What Hayley Williams, OD, wanted after her 2018 graduation from the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry was a place where she could make a difference. But for a few years, that felt just out of reach. After she and her husband moved back to Kansas, where they both grew up, she interviewed with several private practices but didn’t find the right fit. Then she subleased a corporate location—just a little before COVID-19 forced the mall where she was located to close. When it became apparent the company would not reopen that location, Dr. Williams restarted her search.

“I had a friend who had an independent practice next door to a Walmart Vision Center in Wichita, Kansas, for 10 years and it sounded like an interesting option for me. There was an opportunity for an immediate sublease,” Dr. Williams recalls. So she contacted the Walmart district manager and said she’d like to contract that location, but she needed to do it fast. “My family had been without work during the COVID shutdown, so I didn’t want to wait even one more month,” she says. “We made the decision to relocate, moved and reopened in our new location in 11 days.”

Dr. Williams signed a license agreement with Walmart and felt the stars align when she relocated Millennial Eye Care, her independent practice.

ACCESS TO CARE

Dr. Williams makes access to care readily available.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Williams

When she began to tell others where she was moving, some friends expressed hesitation. The location was in a lower socio-economic area of Wichita. That suited Dr. Williams for a few reasons.

“I see many patients with ocular disease. I’m doing first-time exams for children and 80-year-olds who may not even have a primary care physician,” she says. The location is ideal for these patients. “There’s a bus stop in the parking lot. Many optometry practices are not accessible to people who cannot drive, so being on the bus route is a big benefit,” she says. “I am providing eye care to many people who were not getting it before,” she says.

She works 9-5, Monday through Friday, with no weekends and evenings. That schedule lines up with her preferred hours so she can be home with her husband and two young children in the evenings—and with the appointment availability that meets her patients’ needs.

“Many of my patients work second or third shifts in service jobs and manufacturing. If they get off work at 8 a.m., they can see me before they go home. If they don’t start work until 3 p.m., they can see me before they go in,” she says.

Because of her routine, she’s become well-recognized in the Walmart store, too. It’s a friendly atmosphere, and associates and managers in the store recognize her and say hello.

QUALITY EXAMS

Dr. Williams has the Topcon Maestro2 for optical coherence tomography and fundus photos. “This technology is new to this location, and it’s wonderful to be able to do imaging the same day when needed. Patients here get a comprehensive, high-quality exam,” she says.

So far, she has done little external advertising. “I have a website and social media presence. I do hear from patients that they saw my Google reviews, but most often, they tell me that a friend came here,” she says.

Pink background for a website that explains eye services
Dr. Williams’ website helps showcase her services.

About 25% of her patients have benefits through a managed vision plan; many of those come from a private employer in town where her husband works and word of mouth referrals from that growing group.  The majority of her patients are private-pay or covered by Medicare and Medicaid. She also sees Associates who have Walmart-provided benefits from this Walmart location and others in the area. With two exam lanes, the pace is just about right for a solo doctor, she says. “I’m very content operating at the pace I am.” This allows her to take the time she needs with each of her patients.

“My goal is to teach each patient something about their vision. My exams are generally 80% talking and 20% testing. I emphasize preventive care, although for some patients, their conditions have already progressed. But the education I provide reinforces how much I value them and ensures they have someone, other than Google, they trust for medical advice.”

WE ❤️ CHILDREN 

Dr. Williams has a special soft spot for her youngest patients. She had amblyopia and wore bifocal lenses as a child. She trained in pediatric vision therapy, so she is comfortable with young patients and keenly aware of how good care in the early years can have a significant impact on a child’s learning and development. “Some of the doctors around here will not see children under 5. I have no age minimum. I ask parents to bring their kids in as young as possible.”

This is a different kind of practice experience and patient base than she has worked with in the past. “When I worked as a preceptor in Texas, we were in the tech sector of the city. Almost all patients had their own doctors and knew what their systemic issues were,” she says. “In this location, I’m routinely explaining what their care options are or how their systemic conditions affect their eye health and potentially their overall health. I rarely use optometric lingo any more,” she says. “It’s patient-focused talk,” and it makes her proud to educate in a way that is memorable and easy to understand.

“I’ve been offered four other positions since I started working here. I’ve ultimately turned them all down because I like my location, patients and flexibility of operating my independent practice next to a Walmart Vision Center.”

Read other stories about ODs whose careers are in independent practices next door to a Walmart Vision Center.

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