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AOA offers Compass, checklist for new practitioners

April 16, 2013

compass screenStudents graduating from the nation’s schools and colleges of optometry can take pride in having completed the coursework necessary to earn a doctor of optometry degree, notes Shalu Pal, O.D., chair of the AOA Student and New Graduate Committee. However, that does not mean they are ready to enter practice.

“Even new practitioners who have found that all-important first practice offer have a number of things they must do before they begin seeing patients,” said Dr. Pal. “Those steps include passing their national board examinations and getting a National Provider Identifier (NPI) and necessary insurance coverage.”

AOA Student and New Grad Committee members present Compass to students March 16 at Vision Expo East. From left, Ray Pirozzolo, O.D., Chair Shalu Pal, O.D., and Angelique Sawyer, O.D.

AOA Student and New Grad Committee members present Compass to students March 16 at Vision Expo East. From left, Ray Pirozzolo, O.D., Chair Shalu Pal, O.D., and Angelique Sawyer, O.D.

AOA Compass, the AOA Student and New Graduate Committee’s online service for new practitioners, offers a comprehensive list of the steps new practitioners must take to enter practice. Here are some of the most important.

1. Pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam – Parts I, II, and III – For a start-to-finish resource, visit the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) website (www.optometry.org/passfail.cfm). The site offers comprehensive information on the annual testing schedule, state requirements, deadlines, fees, scoring, and registration, along with exam content, sample test items and pass/ fail standards. Note the NBEO exam is administered in three parts, respectively covering basic science, clinical science and patient care.

2. Apply for state licensure by contacting the optometry board – Licensure is an absolute necessity, but some states require another board test – in addition to the NBEO exam. Learn what’s required to practice in each state by visiting the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) website (www.arbo.org).

3. Obtain a National Provider Identifier – The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services initiated the National Provider Identifier (NPI) system to standardize the identification of health care providers. An NPI number uniquely identifies a health care practitioner and is required for most practitioners under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). There is no fee to obtain an NPI. Streamlined NPI requests take 20 minutes to complete the online NPI application, which can be found on the National Plan & Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) website (http://tinyurl.com/NPIinstructions). More information on the system can be found on the NPPES home page (https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov).

4. Apply for a Drug Enforcement Administration number – Optometrists are not required to have federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) identification numbers in order to practice; however, a DEA number is required for any practitioner who wishes to prescribe controlled substances. Contact the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration call center at 800-882-9539 or log onto http://tinyurl.com/ DEAregistration to complete an online application. The practitioner cost is $551 for a three-year registration period.

Have the following information handy:

  • Tax identification number and/or Social Security Number
  • State controlled substance registration information
  • State optometry license information
  • Credit Card (VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express)

5. Apply for malpractice insurance – Health care practitioners must establish a practice location before obtaining malpractice insurance. State optometric associations and current employers are often a great resource for insurance providers. The AOA Malpractice Insurance program by Lockton Affinity offers new practitioners a 50 percent premium discount on their first year of coverage and a 25 percent discount on their second year. (See www.ExcelOD.com/Malpractice-Insurance or related article in this issue of AOA News.)

6. Register practice location with the state board – A comprehensive list of state boards can be found at http://tinyurl.com/optometryboards.

7. Enroll as a Medicare provider – Physicians, non-physician practitioners, and other health care suppliers must enroll in the Medicare program to be eligible to receive Medicare payment for covered services provided to Medicare beneficiaries. The Medicare enrollment application is used to collect information about the practice and to secure the necessary documentation to ensure health care practitioners are qualified and eligible to enroll in the Medicare program. The Medicare Enrollment Application for Physicians and Non-Physician Practitioners (Form CMS-855I) is used by individual physicians or non-physician practitioners to initiate the Medicare enrollment process or to change their Medicare enrollment information. The Medicare Enrollment Application for Clinics/Group Practices and Certain Other Suppliers (Form CMS-855B) is used by group practices or other organizational suppliers to initiate the Medicare enrollment process or to change their Medicare enrollment information. Medicare Enrollment Application for Reassignment of Medicare Benefits (Form CMS-855R) is used by health care practitioners in group practices to initiate a reassignment of a right to bill the Medicare program and receive Medicare payments. In addition to filing paper application forms, health care practitioners can apply using the Internet-based Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS), which is scheduled to be made available to all health care practitioners later this year. For additional information regarding the Medicare enrollment process, including Internet-based PECOS, go to www.cms.hhs.gov/MedicareProviderSupEnroll.

8. Transition AOA membership – As soon as a practice opportunity is secured, an optometrist should join the optometric association in the state where the practice is located. This will avoid a lapse in AOA membership and ensure continued access to AOA services. It also means the practitioner will be listed in the AOA’s online Dr. Locator directory so potential patients can find the practitioner at the new practice location. To learn more and to access a list of AOA affiliated optometric associations, visit www.aoa.org/x5103.xml.

Using an interactive feature on the AOA Compass Web page, new practitioners can develop a personalized plan for the completion of the various steps necessary for entry into practice. The site also offers new practitioners assistance in finding practice opportunities through Optometry’s Career Center, information on financial assistance and budgeting, and other resources.

AOA Compass can be accessed at www.aoa.org/compass.

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