Get Specific With Surgical Outcomes

proofJim Collins, in his pioneering book “Good to Great,” examined what role technology played in the rise of successful companies. He found that in every firm that moved from good to great, technology accelerated, but never created, the momentum. Technology, he learned, wasn’t the primary cause of either greatness or decline. What differentiated outstanding from okay was how great companies thought about technology.

In our field, we expect the next new system will create demand and perfect our results; our history says so. Yet technology is only the vehicle that lets us deliver results. So why do we focus on our technology rather than the results?

How vs. How Well

You started years ago persuading customers to choose you by saying, “I’ve done more.” But when you reached that 2,000th patient, you shifted the conversation to technology: “Ours is better than theirs.”

Today, “better” means expanding from: myopia to hyperopia; none to lots of astigmatism; surface to flapped; bladed to bladeless; phaco to femto. What hasn’t occurred with higher tech is expansion of the elective LASIK and lens implant markets.

Let’s return to the root of our value proposition. When patients choose to spend elective dollars, they expect reliable, improved vision, at a broader range. Yet how do most practices demonstrate this result? By talking about surgeon experience and laser technology. But these are only the means of deliverance, not vision itself.

What to Share

Every practice can improve outcomes. It starts with knowing where you are today. For LASIK, it’s simple. Visual acuity and refraction provide data to customize your personal nomogram and improve results. Every patient must present for these measurements. You must dedicate staff to outcomes data entry, data analysis and nomogram refinement. You should then task inquiry handling and patient counseling teams to use this information as a marketing tool that differentiates your LASIK practice from others. A single chart, sharing your results at various pre-surgery prescriptions, becomes the launch-point for a personalized patient consultation that is different, and better, than any other.

For lens implants, the outcomes measurement is different. Acuity is irrelevant to a lens implant patient, because the range and clarity of vision a 70-year-old desires differs based on whether the person is a quilter, a long-haul truck driver or a tennis-playing receptionist. Patients need to tell you their preferred visual outcome; there will be trade-offs to discuss.

We use a post-surgery lens survey, administered at two months post-op after the second eye, to ask about the frequency of spectacles worn at a variety of near, mid-range and distance tasks. This is translated into a simple outcomes chart demonstrating the amount of time a person is glasses-free at the various tasks. It becomes a powerful exam lane tool when you’re discussing lens implant choice, and provides a visual tool for surgical counselors who are reassuring patients about this lens selection.

Practices that track and use outcomes improve profitability dramatically. Look in your LASIK and lens implant patient packets. Are your outcomes included? Commit to developing this most important proof of your surgical skill.

By Kay Coulson, MBA, founder of Elective Medical Marketing, a Denver, CO-based consultancy focused on helping physicians grow their elective service lines. Originally pulished in Kay’s Ophthalmic Metrics column in Ophthalmology Management.