July 2021

Don’t Miss These All-Star Speakers

From the SNAPP Board

As the SNAPP National Meeting approaches, we encourage you to check the agenda page and the speakers’ page often on the website. But we can already tell you that we have an all-star lineup of speakers who will be speaking on hot topics like nutrition, myopia management, optical management and more.

All three of the days of our meeting, Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 22-24, will feature continuing education opportunities. Remember that one doctor and one non-OD owner per store can qualify for a 100 percent stipend if they register promptly, arrive on time and participate fully. One manager per store qualifies for a 50 percent stipend. See the full qualifying details here.

The most important step you can take now is to register. You don’t get many chances to hear from this stellar group of speakers in a setting like ours. Come listen to Joe DeLoach, OD; Chris A. Knobbe, MD; Michael Kling, OD; Jessica Marshall, OD; Ryan Parker, OD; Frank Pigneri, ABO AC; Justin Schweitzer, OD, FAAO; Craig Thomas, OD; Ashley Wallace-Tucker, OD; and Ryan Williams.

Value of the Meeting

You Come Here Often?

When it comes to SNAPP conferences, Ken Portnoy, OD, and his wife and business co-owner Bonnie Portnoy, of Wheeling, Illinois, are regulars. “We’ve been to all but one,” says Dr. Portnoy. After opening his second Pearle Vision eye care center in 2002, news of the SNAPP meetings made its way to the Portnoys.

Dr. Portnoy and Bonnie Portnoy

“We heard there was some value for us attending, so we started going to meetings,” he says. The meetings provide valuable information and ideas for doctors and nondoctors, adds Bonnie Portnoy. Plus, the meeting content keeps getting better, they both say. “I think the progression of the meetings has been more fine-tuned, focusing on what works well and what doesn’t work well,” says Dr. Portnoy. The two appreciate the fresh perspectives the meetings bring. There are speakers for opticians, industry updates and discussions on emerging trends like telemedicine and online competition.

“We take home what’s relevant to us,” says Dr. Portnoy.

Seeing old friends

It’s not just the educational benefits the meetings provide that keep the Portnoys coming back. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again,” says Bonnie Portnoy. “With the camaraderie you build up, the friendship lasts a long time.” Those friendships came in handy during the unprecedented challenges of 2020.

“During the pandemic, there was a great deal of uncertainty, so we reached out to friends across the country,” she says. “None of us in our lifetimes had experienced anything like this. We had the opportunity to see how other people were handling it.”

That community networking helped the couple navigate the complex challenges—big and small—to find what was best for them. “We didn’t close; we reduced our hours,” says Dr. Portnoy. But even that required logistical hoops to jump through. “If you’re not open as much, how do you get UPS and mail? Those details matter.” Having their Pearle Vision community to lean on proved to be a great relief for the couple mentally, as well. “It helped with putting together some semblance of order emotionally,” he says. “That’s important.”

The couple expects that this year’s meeting, like all of the others, will provide them with ideas and inspiration. “We have several ideas we take away and three or so we try to implement in our practice that will be helpful to us,” he says. Because the SNAPP Board members share the experiences of other SNAPP members, the meeting is highly relevant. “I recruited a friend of ours who came to a SNAPP meeting and said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t do this earlier,’” Dr. Portnoy recalls.

Comfort and Community

In and out of a professional setting, it’s a good feeling to find a community of like-minded thinkers. Within SNAPP meetings, though, there is a rare opportunity for doctors to convene and share a custom-tailored experience made for their community.

Dr. Sexton

“It’s a unique thing,” says Kyle Sexton, OD, of Sexton Vision Group with four locations in Washington state. “All the individuals attending are within the same business structure and environment as you are as the doctor. The continued education is top notch, but through interactions, ideas shared and even sitting next to someone at your lunch table—I hear tried-and-true ideas I can implement,” says Dr. Sexton. He highly values the input of his peers throughout the profession, but it’s even more relevant when they’re also in a Pearle setting.

“You’re able to have conversations with people who are running businesses similar to yours,” he says. “They may have a different idea—something you haven’t thought of before.” He describes the national meeting as “a series of a-ha moments,” and he says that he makes all the equipment purchases for his office based on recommendations from the meeting. The comfort of knowing his trusted colleagues have confidence in the equipment or products speaks volumes.

SNAPP board member “Lisa Hamilton, OD, has tried these products out herself. She’s put them in her office and can speak directly to the performance,” he says. “I know that you can take her at her word, which reduces the amount of guesswork—which adds time and money.”

Learn and share

“I’m going to the meeting for my practice in particular to learn from the best,” he says. “What that means for me is getting out of the exam lane and learning how to create associate doctors who can replicate what I do on a larger scale so I can expand my business without spreading myself too thin.”

Some of Dr. Sexton’s four locations are as close as across town and others hours apart. Yet he is of the mindset that there is always something to learn. “Someone else might have eight, or even two, but that person has perhaps perfected a process. I want to talk to those people and see,” he says.

In addition to capturing new ideas for his practices, he also sees this as an opportunity to encourage others. He says that he has seen his role shift from mentee to mentor.

“Now I’m more of the person giving the advice, but I’m still learning,” he says. “I got here because others shared with me. I started as a single doctor with one location; I owe all of my growth to these meetings.”

Billing Tip from VisionWeb

Should I Use a PM/EHR and a Clearinghouse?

By Amanda Whitener, VisionWeb

Implementing a practice management (PM)/electronic health record (EHR) and/or a clearinghouse can be intimidating, but that shouldn’t hold you back. Established partners have worked for decades to ensure that transitioning from a paper environment to an electronic environment is not as challenging as it once was, and to make it even easier for you, we outlined a few of the most important terms and questions you should be aware of before you get started.

Here's a quick recap of the terms.

• A PM system is where patient demographics are entered, patients are scheduled, and claims are generated electronically.

• An EHR system stores patient-specific documents, such as a patient’s history and physical or other medical records that may be pertinent to the procedures being performed at the practice.

• A clearinghouse is a location where electronic claims (also known as 837s) are billed to payers and electronic remits (also called 835s) are received.

When used appropriately, a PM and an EHR typically work in conjunction with the clearinghouse to streamline billing processes for the practice. How can you tell if your practice is using your PM/EHR/clearinghouse properly? Answer the following questions.

1. Does the provider fill out a paper chart, superbill or invoice?

2. Does the front office staff have to take a trip to the filing cabinet to find a copy of the patient’s insurance card or medical records?

3. Does practice staff manually enter CPTs and diagnosis codes into either the PM or the clearinghouse in order to bill claims?

4. Are the majority of the claims being sent out on paper?

5. Are remits and paper checks coming in the mail to the practice?

6. Does the practice experience claim denials for timely filing?

If you answered “no” to all of these questions, then your practice has either arrived upon or has a solid head start on the road of the type of practice efficiency that is associated with utilizing a PM and EHR appropriately: increased transparency, streamlined scheduling and benefits checking processes that lead to maximized and more consistent revenue all while allowing more time for patient care.

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions, your practice is likely experiencing some significant inefficiencies that have led to a strain on quality time with patients and cash left on the table.

Amanda Whitener is a key member of the Revenue Cycle Management team at VisionWeb. She helps practices understand the gaps in their own processes and make informed decisions about how to grow that aspect of their practice.

Reach out to Amanda here.

HR Corner from AmCheck

Q&A on Vaccine Discrepancies Among Employees

Is it illegal discrimination to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently?

It depends. Different treatment that is reasonably related to workplace safety—such as having unvaccinated employees continue to wear masks—is generally okay.* Employers should make a concerted effort to only treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees differently to the extent necessary to ensure the safety of all those in the workplace. Additionally, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees who are unvaccinated due to disability, pregnancy or religious belief; treating these employees differently without trying to work with them would be illegal discrimination.

Treatment that does not increase safety directly but rewards those who are vaccinated also needs to allow for accommodations for employees who can’t get vaccinated due to disability, pregnancy or religion. For example, if you offer $100 for getting vaccinated or throw a pizza party for vaccinated employees, an employee with a disability that prevented vaccination would need to be able to earn the $100 or attend the pizza party by doing something else that similarly advances safety in the workplace, like wearing a mask, undergoing regular COVID testing or taking a course on preventing the spread of viruses.

While employees who are unvaccinated for reasons other than disability, pregnancy or religion are not entitled to these kinds of accommodations, it may make sense to provide them anyway, both to encourage the alternative safety-enhancing behaviors and to reduce the likelihood that they will complain about how they are being treated. Employers should also ensure that unvaccinated employees are not harassed by co-workers, managers or customers, since disability, pregnancy and religious beliefs are protected characteristics. Although employers do not have a legal obligation to prevent harassment of employees who are unvaccinated for other reasons, it is in the best interest of the employer to prevent this, as any kind of workplace harassment is going to lead to loss of productivity, morale issues and, quite possibly, bad public relations.

*Numerous bills have been introduced at the state level to make vaccination status a protected characteristic, and it appears that some governors may create protections via executive order (EO). So far only Montana’s law has passed, but it appears to prevent employers not only from excluding unvaccinated workers but also from asking them to wear masks if vaccinated employees don’t have to. The current EOs (as of May 27) do not appear to impact private employers. Employers should check for state laws before making policies that treat vaccinated and unvaccinated workers differently.

In the News

The Vision Council VisionWatch Q1 2021 Market Report Shows Increases Over 2020 and 2019

The Vision Council’s quarterly VisionWatch market research reports for Q1 of 2021 indicate that the vision correction industry generated $11.58 billion in sales revenue during the first quarter of 2021, up 16.5 percent over Q1 2020 levels and an increase of 1.9 percent from Q1 2019 levels.

Steve Kodey, senior director of industry research at The Vision Council, says that in addition to following through on delayed purchases, “increasing vaccination rates and growing comfort levels among the consumer population as they relate to returning to a physical retail environment have led to increasing sales of optical products among brick-and-mortar retailers.”

The reports can be downloaded at The Vision Council’s Research Download Center here.

Fitness Trackers Provide Insight on COVID-19 Recovery

Researchers are collecting health data from different wearable devices of enrolled adults in a study to determine if people infected with SARS-CoV-2 can experience lingering physiological effects after they recover.

"We found a prolonged physiological impact of COVID-19 infection, lasting approximately two to three months, on average, but with substantial intra-individual variability," say Jennifer Radin, PhD, MPH, and colleagues with the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in San Diego, California.

The investigators found that among people with COVID-19, it took longer to return to baseline status with respect to resting heart rate, sleep and activity compared with those who had symptoms of viral illness but who did not have COVID-19. The study was published online July 7 in JAMA Network Open.

It’s Lyme Disease Time

The Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association has warned disease forecasters are saying 2021 could be one for the record books for ticks that carry Lyme disease. This winter was one of the warmest on record, and lingering summer heat could add weeks of outdoor activity to animals that carry ticks, which thrive in hot, humid conditions.

Most cases of Lyme disease occur in late spring and early summer. Visual processing dysfunction that can affect function, performance, cognition and balance-related activity can also occur with the disease. If not properly diagnosed and treated, the infection, over months and years, becomes neurological and can’t be cured.

World Sight Day Is Oct. 14, 2021

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and its members have designated "Love Your Eyes" as the theme for this year’s World Sight Day, Oct. 14, 2021. IAPB and its World Sight Day partners aim to get more than 1 million eye tests pledged in the month leading up to World Sight Day and is asking individuals, eye care professionals, hospitals, nongovernmental organizations and businesses to get involved. The aim is to demonstrate the importance of eye health and to highlight the work still to be done in achieving access to eye care services for everyone. Click here for promotional material.

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