December 2023

Cherish the Moments

From the SNAPP Board

It can be challenging to separate 2023 from 2024 in many ways. Of course the calendar changes and we all struggle with remembering to write 2024 for a few weeks.

But in many ways, once the hoopla subsides and the decorations are put away, a day in January is not really all that different from a day in December.

So we have to remember to celebrate the accomplishments of 2023. Even as we head into some of our busiest weeks of the year, we encourage you to stop and thank the people around you who support you day in and day out. Look at how far you’ve come and the goals you’ve hit. Remember all the items that got scratched off your to-do lists—be sure to look around. Maybe your kids took their first steps, hit their first home run or graduated optometry school. It’s wonderful to look back on 2023 and say, This was a good year.

While we remember and are grateful for all that we have, let’s acknowledge that many individuals in our communities have had losses. We at SNAPP are feeling one keenly. By now you have likely heard the heartbreaking news of the passing of our beloved friend, Tom Nicholson.

Tom Nicholson, shown here at right with SNAPP board member Richard Hults, OD, was an ardent and dedicated supporter of SNAPP from its inception.

Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts and prayers are extended to his devoted wife, cherished family members and his second family at CooperVision. Tom’s presence has been an unwavering pillar of support for SNAPP, and his friendship has left an indelible mark on us all.

Board member Lisa Hamilton, OD, recalls her initial encounter with Tom in 2011. This was before SNAPP existed, so it was at a different optometry gathering. “In our conversation, I expressed my aspiration to establish a collaborative platform for Pearle Vision Licensed Operators, a dream that required sponsorship to come to fruition. Tom’s response was one of unyielding encouragement. He not only shared my vision but also actively sought to turn it into a reality. Tom went above and beyond, traveling to Denver for in-depth discussions about our new venture. Ultimately, he became a catalyst, providing the essential seed funding that allowed SNAPP to take its first steps. Since our inaugural year in 2013, Tom along with his CooperVision family have remained a Diamond sponsor of SNAPP, fully committed to the success of our organization.”

So as we lift our glasses to toast the end of 2023 and the promise of 2024, let’s cherish all who were such an important part of our lives.


SNAPP Members Shine at the Pearle Vision Summit

Pearle Vision Licensed Operators and doctors were honored at the Pearle Vision Summit in November in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of the highest awards went to SNAPP members, and in this and upcoming issues of the SNAPP Insider, we will talk to them about their success.

Major awards went to the following.

Carmine and Stacy Mazzarella of Saugus and Burlington, Massachusetts, won the Dr. Stanley Pearle Award.

West Point Optical Group, a Pearle Vision franchise with 50 locations, was honored with the Paul Hans Award for Developer of the Year.

Reza Moazai and Dr. Mahsa Shekar of Mississauga, Ontario, in Canada, received Innovator of the Year.

Milissa Stone, of Grand Junction, Colorado, was honored as Operator of the Year.

Milissa Stone

Stone says the award was a complete surprise to her. “If I had known, I would have brought my team because each of the team members plays such an important role,” she says. In fact, it’s her goal to train people so that they can do the job better than she could. “We want to make them experts, and that has been part of my approach over the past 10 years to make my location the best it can be.”

She began working in this location when she was 19 years old. The owner offered her the option to take over the franchise years later, in 2005. It’s been a consistently high-performing location for years, and part of that is Stone’s ability to hire people who bring their best selves to work every day.

“Each generation of worker has some special attributes, and we have a diversity in our staff. That means we’re very good at pairing patients with team members who will match their personalities. If a patient needs a lot of extra attention in the exam room, we’ll be sure to pair that patient with an optician who enjoys the small talk and handholding,” she says.

Stone adds that she has been able to propel her business forward even more after joining the SNAPP Masterminds program. “I’ve always been able to compare our performance against our own performance the previous quarter or year, but Masterminds has allowed me to study the factors that make other practices successful. If I see that other practices are doing better in key metrics than we are, that gives us a chance to improve our efficiency and productivity,” she says.

Being part of the Pearle Vision brand has been wonderful. “Patients and customers love that they can experience the look, feel and trust of the well-known brand but also get the support and attention from a locally owned business. It’s the best of both worlds,” she says.

Shorten the Learning Curve

New Owner Likes the Support Network That SNAPP Provides

Joe Van Cura, OD, became the leaseholder for a Pearle Vision location in Webster, New York, outside of Rochester, in September. After active duty in the U.S. Army, where he served just outside of Washington, D.C., from 2016-2019, he began working at this location as a staff OD. Although he knew the learning curve might prove a little steep here and there, it was too good of an opportunity not to say yes.

Dr. Van Cura

“Managing an eye care practice is more complicated now than it was 10 years ago, in terms of reimbursements, technology and marketing. As providers, we have to be willing to give extra attention that will keep people coming back,” he says.

That’s one reason he’s happy to be a SNAPP member. He feels like he has people he can turn to who have experienced similar issues and can offer solutions for what worked for them. “I love to learn from other people,” he says, and notes that he is looking forward to being able to attend SNAPP annual meetings in person. As the dad of young children, he has to balance constantly being home and working on the business. Plus, he still serves as a U.S. Army Reserve medical officer with a medical unit in his town.

“My one-year goal is to continue the growth that we have experienced here for the past 10 years and pare down some of the costs. It takes a lot of coordination to bring on new services and make the investments that go with that while knowing that it will require skills or someone’s time to make sure those services are used fully.”

The SNAPP Masterminds program intrigues him, particularly for the deep dive that it pushes owners into. This year, he’s still getting his feet on solid ground with the transition in ownership, but he says that he hopes he can participate in the future.


Can We Fire This Patient?

By Peter Cass, OD, and Joe DeLoach, OD, Practice Compliance Solutions

Difficult or rude patients are an unfortunate fact of business for every eye care practice at some point. While we have dealt with our share of rude, grumpy, difficult and noncompliant patients in our careers, we have each fired only one patient in a combined 60 years of practice. We recommend that firing a patient always be a last resort.

Some common reasons to dismiss a patient could include the following.

1. Rudeness or disruptive behavior: But good customer service skills can often turn problem patients into happy patients who are active promoters of your practice.

2. Noncompliance: Noncompliant patients are often dismissed for fear of liability, but if a provider documents the noncompliance and documents the attempts to educate the patient, the liability is the patient’s. Help them understand the importance of treatment, but also understand that you cannot force them to do something.

3. Theft: These patients often have no intention of coming back; dismissal is certainly an option if they do try to return.

4. Abuse of staff: Physical or verbal abuse of your staff can and likely should be immediate grounds for patient dismissal. This is the only reason either of us have ever fired a patient.

This decision for dismissal should never be taken lightly, and you must handle it properly by adhering to ethical guidelines and professional standards.

1. Consider any care needed; do not abandon a patient in need of care. A 30-day transition is typically the minimum.

2. Let them know they are entitled to receive a copy of their medical records—even if the patient has an outstanding bill.

3. Provide information on how they can find another provider. Offer to transfer records to the new provider upon receipt of a signed authorization to do so.

4. Provide a dismissal letter to the patient. Keep it simple and avoid overexplaining.

•  Include the date that the termination becomes effective.

•  The discharge letter should be marked “personal/confidential” and mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the patient’s last known address. If urgent notification is needed, you can send the letter by HIPAA-compliant email but following up with a certified letter is essential.

•  File a copy of the letter and the receipt in the patient’s medical record.

Find a template for a sample letter here.

HR Advice From AmCheck

The Working Interview

We would like to add a working interview to our selection process. Is this permitted and are there other options to help us finalize our selection?

Yes, you can have a working interview as part of your selection process, but there’s a big caveat. If you have the candidate do “real work” that is useful to your business, you’ll need to hire them as a temporary employee, have them complete new hire paperwork, pay them at least the minimum wage, and then jump through any termination hoops if you don’t hire them.

You can’t lawfully classify them as an independent contractor for this purpose. Here are a few more things keep in mind.

•  It will likely be most convenient for you to write a check to the candidate at the end of the working interview. But if not, make sure they get paid within the time frame required by your state’s final pay laws.

•  If a candidate is injured during the working interview, you may be liable for a workers’ compensation claim.

•  You’ll want to be clear with the candidate that the working interview is not an offer of employment. When the work is completed, give them a timeline for when they can expect to hear back from you.

If you’d prefer to avoid the hassle of hiring candidates as temporary employees, there are alternatives that can yield similar results. Here are two we recommend.

•  Test candidates’ skills by assigning them a task to complete. This task should be something that can be completed quickly and that doesn’t benefit the organization—it shouldn’t be work that needs to get done. For example, you could have them process part of last week’s (redacted) payroll or have them write a particular type of client communication that has already been sent.

•  Allow candidates to observe a current employee doing the job for an extended period. Job shadowing shows candidates what to expect in the role and what sorts of tasks they’d be expected to perform. This will help them gauge their likelihood of success in the role.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

News of Interest

Expanding Use of AI to Help Detect Diabetic Retinopathy

A recent study by eye care nonprofit Orbis International has found that artificial intelligence (AI) can accurately detect diabetic retinopathy in children and young adults, an important breakthrough that can mean the difference between healthy sight and irreversible vision loss for youngsters with diabetes. Read the Vision Monday story here.

Eye Movements Generate Sounds in the Ears

A recent study has found that ears emit subtle sounds when the eyes move; decoding the sounds reveals where your eyes are looking. These faint ear sounds may fine-tune perception and could be used to develop innovative hearing tests.

The research team has cracked the code to calculate where a subject is looking, based on the sound generated. Next up: how might the sounds impact perception? Read more from Science Daily here.

Researchers Develop UV Protective Contact Lenses, Working on Temperature Detection

A research team in United Arab Emirates has developed contact lenses using smart materials such as photochromic and thermochromic powders. The lenses have unique optical attributes depending on their activated and inactivated states. Read more here.

Vision Benefits Usage

The polling firm CivicScience found that more than half of Americans polled have some type of vision benefits.

2,222 responses from August 19, 2023, to August 23, 2023, excluding those who selected “I’m not sure.” Weighted by U.S. Census 18+.

© CivicScience 2023


Getty Images photo credits—AI: da_kuk; awards: Pramote_Lertnitivanit; calendar: Dilok_Klaisataporn; ear: Fuse; fire patient: Vadim_Sazhniev; interview: olm26250; and network support: EtiAmmos

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