January 2024

Let SNAPP Be Your Secret to Success

From the SNAPP Board

Business publications will call out more than a half dozen elements to success: determination, drive, passion, optimism, discipline, creativity, caring, goal-setting, a growth mindset and so on.

There is no question that these are important—and SNAPP doctors and Licensed Operators display these characteristics.

But there is one important element that we can tap into: each other. Our stories—told by eye care professionals who share an understanding of what it means to operate in the Pearle Vision environment—can serve as motivation.

• Hearing how a member navigated a remodel (this can be anything…) can help you avoid pitfalls along your path.

• Learning how scheduling and training resulted in improved metrics for handoffs between exam room and optical can spark ideas or reinforce what you’re already doing well.

• Understanding why one member added services might not inspire you to add exactly the same services, but it may get you thinking about something that would benefit your target market.

That has been our goal at SNAPP since we started the organization in 2013—to connect and inspire each other. So we ask you to share your stories of success or overcoming challenges, and we celebrate with our colleagues who have done just that, like Carmine Mazzarella and Stacy Mazzarella, winners of the Dr. Stanley Pearle Award in 2023. Read their story below.

Thanks to Our New and Returning Sponsors

The SNAPP Annual Meeting and the SNAPP Monthly Newsletter, among other benefits, wouldn’t be possible without the ongoing support of our vendor sponsors. We want to thank each of our sponsors—including the longstanding ones who have been with us for years as well as the ones who have recently created relationships with us. Thank you.

ABB Optical Group • Alcon • Allergan • AmCheck Las Vegas • Arrellio • Bausch + Lomb • CardConnect • CooperVision • DemandForce • Digital Optometrics • FastPay Health • HELIX • Johnson & Johnson Vision • MacuHealth • Olleyes • Optos • Practice Compliance Solutions • Roya.com • Topcon Healthcare • Transitions • Weave

On snappgroup.org, scroll down to the listing of sponsors and click on the logos to learn more about how these companies support us.

Celebrating Excellence

Mazzarellas Honored With Dr. Stanley Pearle Award Based on Hot Start With New Practice

Standing on the stage receiving the Dr. Stanley Pearle Award with his wife Stacy Mazzarella in late 2023 was a full-circle moment for Carmine Mazzarella. More than 30 years earlier, the young optician—barely out of his teens—met Dr. Pearle at a training seminar. “I didn’t have the money or the experience to take on a Pearle location, but he encouraged me and mentored me. He saw something in me, so receiving the award with his name on it was a tremendous honor,” he says.

Stacy and Carmine Mazzarella accept the Dr. Stanley Pearle Award

Young Carmine Mazzarella (left) found a years-long mentor with Dr. Stanley Pearle (right).

Carmine Mazzarella has been nominated multiple times for the Dr. Stanley Pearle Award, but as some of the criteria are weighted heavily on year-over-year growth, it can be more difficult for an established 30-year-old location to nail those metrics.

Recently, however, the growth of their second location, acquired in 2020, was robust enough to push them to the top. The second practice, in Burlington, Massachusetts, is about 30 miles away from the original one in Saugus. For this acquisition, the Mazzarellas leaned into the Ignite program from Pearle, which provides some incentives to help eye care professionals convert former private practices to the Pearle brand.

The practice they acquired was not a Pearle location, but the doctor was retiring. She had earned her MD in China but was working as an OD in the U.S. Even so, the practice was highly medical, with exam slots of one hour, followed by the doctor being involved in the frame styling.

“There are challenges to taking over a private practice and moving it to the Pearle brand,” says Carmine Mazzarella. “Sometimes patients prefer going to a private practice because they have misperceptions about a corporate-affiliated location.” And some staff, who may have worked in a corporate location in the past, aren’t interested in doing so again, he says.

Rebuilding and re-educating

In this case, one of the two staff members associated with the old practice had already decided she was ready to retire as well. He recalls that it took a little effort to get the one remaining staff person to buy in. It wasn’t that she was unwilling to change, but she was skeptical that the new model could bring the two- or even three-times growth that he told her he expected. “There was nothing inherently wrong with her system of management, but it wasn’t scalable to accommodate the growth I felt would come,” he says.

As the patient volume grew, that employee—who was working on her master’s degree in another field—could see the wisdom of the plans he implemented. When she left to pursue her career, the last connection to the old practice was gone.

He also knew he would have to re-educate some patients about what they could expect in the location under this new management. That meant he would inevitably lose some patients who insisted on getting their medical eye care with long appointment times. But those who stayed were happy with the changes: a larger and more contemporary frame selection and greater efficiency.

In fact, the day they relaunched as a Pearle location, they were able to tap into the online appointment scheduler through Pearle. “As soon as we flipped the switch, people were booking within minutes. That’s the power of the brand, and it’s part of the reason I’ve stayed with Pearle.”

Gambling on a new location

Around the same time, the Mazzarellas began negotiating for a third business, a relatively new Pearle location. Unfortunately, that doctor’s health declined very quickly, so the couple was able to acquire only the records and equipment, but not the location itself. Even so, they put the equipment and furniture into storage and were able to use it with the new practice. It also meant that the region had lost one Pearle location, which made him even more sure he’d have the patient base for the new endeavor.

The location they did acquire was in a high-end mall, and they shopped around for a larger space inside the mall. But the rent was too high. They even looked at a space that was inside the mall parking lot, but the rent there was three times higher than what they were able to find 1,000 yards away. “It’s not as visible as it would have been in the mall, but I was willing to bet that people would find us. And they did.”

Through the Ignite program, converted Pearle locations have up to five years before they need to remodel to incorporate the full Pearle look. Since the Mazzarellas were moving the location and they had everything from the dismantled Pearle location, they decided to do the full branding remodel right at the start. “It slowed us down in opening a little bit, but now, three years into owning this, I’m not looking at a remodel. We did that already before we had a patient base,” he says.

Carmine Mazzarella says that the Ignite program mitigates some of the risks for converting a location to Pearle. “I knew the market. I knew it was a strong market for Pearle,” he says. He is the optician; Stacy Mazzarella is the manager, working with staff and managing billing and orders.

The Mazzarellas and their team

Billing Tip of the Month from HELIX

Proper Use of Unbundling Modifiers

By Amanda Whitener,
Revenue Cycle Management Account Manager at HELIX

Navigating NCCI edits can be a challenging task, especially when determining the appropriate unbundling modifier to use in a specific situation. Here are four common unbundling modifiers along with their proper usage.

Modifier 24

This modifier tells the payer that a provider in the same specialty provided unrelated services during the global period of another claim. This happens, for example, when a patient comes in for their glaucoma treatment during the global period of a co-managed claim. It is used appropriately for separate claims in which the first has a global period and the second is unrelated to the global period claim and does not have a global period of its own. The second claim gets the modifier 24. It’s often confused with modifier 25.

Modifier 25

This modifier tells the payer that the patient required additional services that were not identified in a previous visit, on the same day as another separate and distinct procedure. For example, the patient presents for glaucoma treatment and, in the course of treating, the doctor identifies a foreign body, and an epilation is performed. It is properly used on the same claim as another CPT to unbundle those two CPTs, in which one is an evaluation and management (E&M) code (which gets modifier 25) and the other is a procedure code. It’s often confused with modifier 59, which is used to unbundle procedure codes.

Modifier 59

Modifier 59 tells the payer that two codes that are typically bundled together should be unbundled. Note that overuse of this modifier could trigger an audit by the payer, so use caution. It could be used, for example, to bill an OCT (92133 or a 92134) with a fundus photo (92250) on the same day of service, when separate diagnoses are appropriate. Modifier 59 is different from modifier 25, with which is it often confused; Modifier 59 is used to unbundle procedure codes whereas modifier 25 is used to unbundle an exam and a procedure code.

Modifier 79

Modified 79 tells the payer that a procedure with its own global period was performed during the global period of another procedure. This happens, for example, when cataract surgery is co-managed on one eye during the global period of the other eye. The second eye claim would need modifier 79. It’s properly used on CPTs on separate claims where the first claim has its own global period and the second claim has its own global period but is being billed during the global period of the first claim.

Be sure to use modifiers only when absolutely relevant. Gaining a few extra bucks on the front end isn’t worth an audit on the back end.

Reach out to the HELIX team with any other billing questions you have at this link; we might have the solution for you.

HR Corner From AmCheck

New Year: Set SMART Goals

The SMART goal framework is an approach to goal-setting that helps you set goals that are more impactful and likely to be achieved while avoiding goals that are too broad to be meaningful or simply too difficult. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound. Let’s examine each quality in turn.

A specific goal identifies exactly what is to be achieved. It answers the question of what success looks like. Let’s say you want to set a goal around improving morale. A specific goal might be “reduced turnover” or “increased scores on the annual employee engagement survey.”

A measurable goal is quantifiable. You can track progress against objectives. For example, “reduce turnover by 15%” or “increase engagement scores by 5%.”

An achievable goal is realistic. It may be challenging, even somewhat aspirational, but it is ultimately within reason. A goal of no turnover or 100% engagement is not likely to be achievable. The problem with setting an unachievable goal is that many people won’t be motivated to try to reach it, knowing it’s impossible from the outset.

A relevant goal ties in with the values and long-term objections of those responsible for it. For example, increasing company-wide employee retention relates to the work of HR, but it probably wouldn’t be a suitable goal for a revenue team.

A timebound goal specifies when the goal should be achieved or when progress toward it will be measured. You might assess progress or completion in a week, month, quarter or even a year, depending on the nature of the goal.

A SMART goal for increasing employee morale would be something like this: “By the end of the fourth quarter next year, the HR team will increase employee retention by 5%.”

News of Interest

Using AI to Screen Children

A Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study of children and youth with diabetes concludes that artificial intelligence (AI) diabetic eye exams significantly increase completion rates of screenings designed to prevent potentially blinding diabetes eye diseases.

During the exam, pictures are taken of the backs of the eyes without the need to dilate them, and AI is used to provide an immediate result. Read more here.

Research Aims for Novel Approach to Glaucoma Therapy

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are using a novel approach that might result in a new therapy for glaucoma, thanks to a new five-year, $2 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute.

The project focuses on providing a foundation for developing a new glaucoma therapeutic by testing human neurons and a regenerative therapy to rescue visual neurons from dying preclinically in human eyes under glaucoma conditions. This combination has never been used before. Read more here.

Getty Images photo credits—coding: AndreyPopov; diabetic child: Juanmonino; glaucoma: PeopleImages; SMART goals: Whale_Design; and success: Midnight_Studio

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