LASIK is in critical condition. From a peak of 700,000 people in 2007, only approximately 300,000 people will choose LASIK this year, according to a recent issue of Ophthalmic Market Perspectives.1
When considering that more than 100 million Americans wear vision correction, LASIK barely creates a ripple in today’s vision correction pond.
We know the procedure is safe and effective; Elective Medical Marketing’s research shows 76% of Millennials are “somewhat” or “very” interested in LASIK. So, why is the LASIK market vanishing? One word: cost. LASIK fees of upwards of $2,000 per eye had been driven by equipment costs, not market acceptance. Pre-2008, this discrepancy was disguised behind patient financing. When the patients’ access to credit dried up, so did requests for LASIK.
Too many practices adopted LASIK pricing from the bottom up, meaning overhead plus marketing plus physician time. But the market imputes pricing from the top down: the perceived value of a good or service is based on its benefit versus any reasonable substitutes.
Laser manufacturers and surgeons promote LASIK as technology, and rationalize that with every new technological innovation, fees can and should rise. But what other technology has coupled improved benefits with increasing prices?
To revive LASIK, we need a reset. Which equipment do we absolutely need to satisfy patients? Which equipment would you buy if you knew none of the cost could be passed on to consumers? If, as a profession, we reimagine the next act for LASIK, we’ll target a younger candidate. Age 25 to 35 is the LASIK sweet spot. A national sample of LASIK-interested Millennials told Elective Medical Marketing in 2014 they’re willing to pay $887 per eye for LASIK. To meet them at this price point, exorcise equipment that has not brought new customers, improved outcomes, or enhanced profitability.
Improvement of the LASIK market is not subject to improvement of the overall economy. During the recession, many Boomers aged out and Millennials still had (and likely have) student loan debt in the tens of thousands. If we choose to ignore Millennials and target Generation X instead, we need a solution for presbyopia. Or, we may walk away from LASIK entirely because practices won’t accept how the market values it. If LASIK dies, it won’t be because it isn’t a marvel of modern medicine. It will vanish because we chose not to serve the market. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make LASIK viable and more affordable to Millennials.