May 25, 2007

The Board of Registration of Optometrists and Empire Vision Center, Inc. entered into a Consent Agreement whereby Empire Vision Center, Inc. ("Empire") agreed to pay a $10,000.00 fine to resolve Board allegations that it engaged in the unlicensed practice of optometry in Massachusetts by effectively controlling Optometric Providers Inc. ("OPI") and directing its optometrists' practice in violation of Board rules and regulations. Empire acknowledged that if the matter were to proceed to a full adjudicatory hearing, the Board could find that it had engaged in the unlicensed practice of optometry by effectively controlling OPI and directing its optometrists' practice including, but not limited to:

a.) Inappropriately participating in the directing of the quality of optometric services provided to patients;

b) Inappropriately participating in the setting of policy regarding the scheduling of patients and time allowed for patient examinations;

c) Inappropriately participating in the setting of fees for optometric services;

d) Inappropriately controlling the equipment and offices of optometrists; and

e) Inappropriately participating in the hiring, firing, work schedules and training of OPI employee optometrists; and that

OPI's fees, costs, and finances were not adequately independent or free from Empire's control and influence.



As part of the Consent Agreement, Empire also agreed that it would not directly or indirectly engage in the practice of optometry by controlling or directing the actions or decisions of optometrists in Massachusetts, and agreed to the following conditions:

A. Respondent shall not be involved in any hiring, firing, training, scheduling of work hours or vacation, or evaluation of optometrists in Massachusetts;

B. Respondent shall ensure that its staff only shall have access to patient records, charts and information to the extent said access is in compliance with State and Federal privacy laws;

C. Respondent shall not exercise any control over the setting of fees for optometric services in Massachusetts;

D. Respondent shall not exercise or attempt to exercise control over, suggest, reward, or otherwise influence optometric care decisions including but not limited to, scheduling of patients, dilations, and prescription requirements;

E. Respondent shall not exercise control or attempt to exercise control over optometric equipment or clinical element of the physical space designated for optometric operations;

F. Respondent shall ensure that any optometrist's or optometric entity's finances and costs are independent from it and are not subject to its control or direction;

G. Respondent agrees to maintain an itemized schedule of office services rendered to optometrists and an itemized statement of payments received from optometrists for those services;

H. Respondent agrees that any current or future lease agreement with any individual optometrists or optometric group shall be in writing;

I. Respondent agrees that any current or future lease agreement with any individual optometrist or optometric group shall not require the optometrist or optometric group to use the Respondent's management services; and

J. Respondent shall ensure that the individual optometrist or optometric group is solely responsible for the retention of patient records.

Empire also agreed to revise any agreement it may have with OPI or any other entity providing optometric services in Massachusetts to reflect the above stipulations. Empire further agreed to an annual inspection of its office locations by the Board to ensure compliance with the Agreement and all Board rules and regulations.

Consumers are urged to visit the Division of Professional Licensure's website and select the check a license option to determine whether a professional they are considering doing business with is licensed and in good standing.

The Division of Professional Licensure is a regulatory agency within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. The agency is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance and the integrity of the licensing process for approximately 330,000 licensees across 43 trades and professions under the jurisdiction of 30 boards of registration.