It’s Not the Economy. It’s You.

Many LASIK surgeons adopt a fatalistic outlook when the economy falters. They tell themselves, “Well, there’s really nothing I can do. It’s the economy.” If you have set your practice’s achievement bar to average, then you’re right. However, smart, innovative practitioners know that during tough times, they will shine the brightest. Discriminating consumers who demand more value for their dollars expose flaws in lesser practices’ customer service, patient handling, and outcomes. Make no mistake; even in these uncertain economic times, there are plenty of people willing and able to pay for LASIK. They’re simply deciding whether you’re worth it.

The Economy Is Not The Problem

Consider the statistics. In the US, 46 million adults between the ages of 20 and 54 wear glasses or contact lenses.1 We know that 5 million of these folks have had LASIK, but 10 to 11 million more people want the procedure.2 Over 2 million of these potential candidates will call your practices this year,3 yet only 650,000 will be treated! 4 Think about that for a minute. As a group, refractive surgeons deliver services to only one-third of the people who contact them about LASIK every week, every month, and every year! You don’t need a better economy; you need to do a better job of capturing the huge pool of customers who reach out to you.

Is it possible to find an extra 20 or 30 or 50 eyes per month for our practices out of this huge pool of 10 million people?  We can.  By changing our viewpoint.  By realizing that the problem with LASIK isn’t the economy … it’s us.

It’s how we market.  We keep telling people about us … our surgeon, our technology, our experience.  We should be talking about them.  What vision we’ll give them.  How LASIK will help them.  And we must alleviate the fear that LASIK is not safe.  Figure out your percentage of 20/20 and 20/Happy and make this the cornerstone of your message.

It’s how we answer the phone.  Do your people know how to take control of a call?  How to uncover the fear?  Do they know how to answer a price question and still book the consult?  How to explain that LASIK is simply bringing the eye back into round?  Do they know YOUR outcomes, and how to explain them?

It’s how we behave when customers enter our office.  And how we look in the reception area, in the way our staff is dressed, and the way our lanes and lounges appear.  If the measuring scale of your practice has doctor’s office on one end, and spa on the other, have an objective party grade you.  Your greetings.  Your clothing.  Your magazines and office furniture.  Your chart jackets.  The number of tissue boxes displayed.  Tissue boxes do not say vision spa!

It’s the hurdles we make them leap.  In a patient-centric practice, why would anyone need to be out of contact lenses before a consult?  Out of soft lenses more than 3 days before surgery?  Why would we ever hesitate to do a monovision trial with proper fit and astigmatism correction?  Why wouldn’t we always do surgery on Fridays?  Why wouldn’t we include plugs in the global fee?  Why would we give someone a surgery appointment time, and then tell them to arrive thirty minutes in advance of that time?  Because you’re surgeon-centric, not patient-centric.  A surgeon-centric mindset undermines superior customer service every day of the week, and it stalls LASIK volume.

So instead of waiting for the economy to change, look for how you can create change.  Diagnose problem areas.  Develop an improvement plan.  Follow through!  Building a LASIK practice is predictable and expandable if you monitor and improve performance metrics. The two most critical metrics?

  • 75% of inquiries should attend a consult.  Every inquiry counts.  And you must encourage, prod, monitor and threaten to make sure you get accurate inquiry counts.  You will be amazed at the leads you didn’t even realize were coming through your office because they were mishandled, dropped or transferred to voicemail and never left a message.
  • 75% of consults should attend surgery.  Every consult counts.  This isn’t 75% of candidates.  It’s 75% of all consults.  Examine candidacy requirements if you’ve fallen below the benchmark.  Is your ASA vs. LASIK requirement too strict?  Is your pach threshold too tight?  Are you a practice looking for reasons to say no, rather than earnestly trying to say yes?  Our fear of litigation is unfounded when laid against OMIC claims and settlements.  Don’t let fear cloud your LASIK candidacy criteria.

Every practice I’ve ever consulted with thought they were converting at 75% or better on both of these measures.  Yet if it were true, we’d be performing LASIK on 2 million eyes per year, instead of the 700,000 we’ll actually do.

Will LASIK look rosier when economic conditions improve?  Sure.  But is our success predicated on that improvement?  Not at all.  Look inward today to fine-tune your LASIK practice.  You’ll find real practice growth and a more satisfied patient base.

By Kay Coulson, MBA, founder of Elective Medical Marketing, a Denver, CO-based consultancy focused on helping physicians grow their elective service lines.