NEW YORK—CooperVision opened the application process for its Best Practices program in mid-September, and in doing so provided some updates that are designed to make it easier for eyecare practices to enter the program and for the judges to evaluate the diverse group of entries and focus areas the competition has come to attract.
With the changes, in 2022 Best Practices will be recognized specifically for the areas of optometry in which they truly shine, CooperVision noted (as VMAIL reported).
VMAIL Weekend recently sat down with Michele Andrews, OD, CooperVision’s vice president, professional & government affairs, to get a better understanding of what’s new in the Best Practices program.
Applications for Best Practices recognition can be submitted at the website here through Nov. 30, 2021, and will be reviewed by a panel of judges, including previous Best Practices honorees, industry experts, and CooperVision leaders. The 2022 Best Practices will be announced early next year.

The group of 2019 honorees gathered at that year’s Best Practices Summit in Austin, Texas.

Question 1: VMAIL Weekend: What is the idea behind these changes/updates to the Best Practices’ program?
Michele Andrews, OD: We’re going into our seventh year, and we've decided to modify the application process slightly to try to draw attention to five specialty areas. Historically, the application process has been open-ended, with some wide-ranging questions that doctors can answer in many different ways about innovation, patient service and/or community service. [In the past], they had to answer all of them as they submitted their application. This year, we're going to give doctors the opportunity to submit their applications in as many of those five categories as they choose.
Question 2: What are the areas that the five categories cover?
A: The five categories are: industry advancement, community impact, patient experience, specialty services and team building. These categories cover the range of things we saw, year after year, in the applications, but we think this format will enable doctors to see themselves in one of these categories. 

If they want to submit in patient experience, rather than feeling like they have to be the best of the best in all of the categories, now if they want to submit an application in just community impact, they can do that. team building, they can do that, as well.
We're looking forward to providing the opportunity to showcase an area of their practice that they feel really great about without the pressure of feeling like they have to be [extraordinary at] all things.

The doctors and staff at Carbon Valley Eye Care in Frederick, Colo.
Question 3: Was there an indication from the doctors’ applications that this is the way things are moving in the profession?
A: I think it's part of the natural evolution of the program. It’s something we’ve observed as we read through the applications and we see how the judges are making their decisions and how the doctors come to the table and what they talk about. Certainly, they have a lot to contribute across all areas of the practice, but it seems that each doctor has a passion, and a place where they have really invested over and above all other aspects of the practice.
We've met people like Shauna Thornhill, OD, who has a toy drive that [is very successful]. When you hear about it, you see the significant work she's done and the contribution that she’s made to the community.
We also have seen people like Stephanie Woo, OD, who has now developed Woo University because of her passion for education around specialty lenses. We see just excellence across the board. When you start to dig in, people are really looking to these subject matter experts to help them elevate their practice. It made sense to say, ‘Tell us what you think qualifies you to be a best practice in a particular area.’ And let us look at this from the perspective of what you think you do best, as opposed to looking at every practice against every category.

Dr. Ally Gelt (l) and Dr. Bryan Heitmeyer from Clearvue Vision Center in Kent, Wash.

Question 4 : How will this change or impact the judging process?  
A: I think this helps the judges, who now can look at the practices [across specific areas] and not be forced into choosing among things that are difficult to compare. Typically, the judges want to recognize all of the practices, especially when their uniqueness shines through.
We had an application last year from a clinic from an optometry school, which I think is just magnificent. We've also had applications from people who are passionate about legislative advocacy. How do you put those two [practices] up against each other? Now, they have their own place. So someone who has a program that brings in a lot of externs, for example, or an academic institution, they compete with other people who are also talking about industry advancement.
Question 5: How has the Best Practices’ program grown and has it met your expectations?
A: We’ve seen growth in applications every year. The other thing that we've seen, which I think is really special for us, is that we have seen people who weren't selected in their first year of application, come back apply again.
And to me that just speaks to the value that eyecare professionals see in this program. It shows they want to be seen as connected to the program and they want to be part of the Best Practices network. They see the value of this group of people and the value of getting together and learning from each other.
We also see many referrals. When you ask people, ‘How did you hear about the Best Practices program?’ they will say, ‘Oh a doctor from the 2018 year told me I need to apply.’ We see more and more of …  [honorees] from prior winners reaching out to their colleagues. It confirms that what we’re doing is special and this is a special program.