Levin Eyecare’s Unique Business Model

Howard (left) and Richard Levin’s Pikesville eye care group is expanding. (Marc Shapiro)

Howard (left) and Richard Levin’s Pikesville eye care group is expanding. (Marc Shapiro)

Every aging doctor needs a safety net and a way to retire comfortably, but some don’t have that. Those who run independent practices might not have the means to keep their practice going when they decide it’s time to step away.

That’s where Levin Eyecare comes in. The father-and-son team of Howard, 67, and Richard, 36, have recently began expanding their practice by partnering with doctors who fall into that category.

“A lot of guys in my age group are by themselves,” Howard Levin said. “God forbid, they get sick or something happens, they’ve got nobody to lean on.”

Having partnered with an ophthalmologist in 2007, the Levins decided to expand that model, and Levin Eyecare partnered with The Optical Solution this past August. Going forward, the practice will be known as Levin Eyecare.

Now that hospitals are buying up primary-care practices, Richard Levin said they are taking the model and applying it to the specialty world.

“There are very few young practitioners buying practices, and these guys don’t have exit strategies,” he said.

Howard Levin first started practicing in 1972. In 2006, three years after his son, Richard, graduated from optometry school, the two opened their own practice with locations in Perry Hall and Parkville.

These days, their eyes are on expansion, but the right kind of expansion.

The doctor who runs The Optical Solution, Ron Surdin, said he joined the Levin Eyecare group because he saw a focus on patients akin to his own.

“There was the ability to continue practicing the same kind of patient care that I’ve been practicing for the past 40 years,” Dr. Surdin said.

That type of patient care, Howard Levin said, is giving each patient individual attention and not making them feel like just another number.

“I figured if you take care of your patients properly, they’ll take care of you,” Dr. Surdin said.

Levin Eyecare, the group’s optometry practice, and Total Vision, the group’s ophthalmology practice, are now able to offer one-stop shopping in eye care. And power in numbers means lower costs, a wider selection of frames and the latest technologies.

“We can offer everything to patients, from glasses to contacts to the most complicated surgery,” Richard Levin said.

He said there are a few more partnerships in the works with older doctors, as well as interested investors.

“Usually [the doctors] want guarantees for the most part — guaranteed salary, benefits, vacation,” he said. “We take on all the heavy responsibilities.”

Levin Eyecare, which now has five locations in the Baltimore area, is in the process of updating Dr. Surdin’s offices. Once completed, the office will have new and updated equipment and computer software, new frames and new contact lens options.

Dr. Surdin has also told patients about the new partnership through letters, as well as his new Internet presence through Levin Eyecare.

“I enjoy what I do and I want to keep doing it, and this [partnership] is going to allow me to do that,” he said.

In addition to helping older doctors work their way into retirement comfortably, the Levins also work to help the less fortunate members of the community. The office’s Parkville location sees patients who are on Medicaid and other types of medical assistance.

“Our mission is to treat everyone with respect and the care they’re entitled to regardless of economic status,” Howard Levin said. “A lot of these people are on Medicaid for a short period of time, and then they get a job and come back.”

The Levins, both members of Beth Tfiloh Congregation, also sponsor two scholarship funds for inner-city students to attend private school.

The hope is to have about 20 centers in the next five years, Richard Levin said.

“We want the patients, when they get up, to say, ‘This is the best eye exam I’ve ever had,’” he said.

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