In 2006, I was working as a surgical counselor at a practice in Indiana. I had a patient who was –9 D come in for a LASIK evaluation. Her corneas were 650 µm, but her keratometry readings were very flat. The physician recommended “the newly FDA approved” phakic ICL implant. Unfortunately, the price for these implants was nearly double the price of LASIK. Her husband, who was wearing very expensive caiman boots, said, “Absolutely not, this is a rip-off!”
So, I went to the tech station and grabbed a trial frame set. I loaded up his wife’s prescription and asked the husband if he would put them on. His immediate reaction was, “I can’t see a dang thing!” He didn’t use the word “dang,” but I thought I would keep the context of this article clean. I said to the husband, “This is the vision your wife wakes up with every morning. With this ICL procedure, she could wake up with clear vision. It’s a gift you could give your wife that she would open every single day.” After some hesitation, I asked if they’d like to take advantage of our 24-month no-interest financing promotion. They were approved in 5 minutes and booked the surgery.
A week after her bilateral ICL surgery, I saw the patient for the first time. She walked up to me and tearfully let me know I had changed her life. I said, “Thank you, but that was all the doctor. He is a really talented surgeon!” She said, “No, you don’t understand. Yes, he did the surgery, but you helped me and my stubborn husband over our hesitations. You are the one to thank for this!” Now, I don’t often get very emotional, but I have to admit that this patient turned on the waterworks. From that moment forward, I switched from being a salesperson to a true patient counselor.
Premium IOL patients
In 2003, the CMS allowed surgeons to start charging for premium lens implants. Granted, during this time, the IOLs weren’t the best, and we usually deterred patients from electing to have them. However, in 2006, a 70-year-old patient wearing dirty overalls and old work boots came in for a cataract evaluation. After his evaluation, I met with him to schedule his upcoming cataract surgery. Mr. Alan asked me about the new lenses, and I told him that they were fairly new and that although he would most likely be able to read without glasses, his vision wouldn’t be perfect and he would have glare and halo issues at night. Mr. Alan went on to tell me that his friend had the new upgraded lenses, and he wanted them as well. I said, “Mr. Alan, they are really expensive, almost $3,000 each!” He opened up the middle pocket of his overalls, pulled out $4,000 in cash and said, “Here’s my deposit. “ I still cringe that I once said to a patient, “It’s too expensive!”
A month after his second eye was complete, I bumped into him in the hallway of the practice and asked him how his vision was. He said, “It’s the best thing I’ve ever purchased. I read a lot and don’t need glasses. Best of all, at night, traffic signal lights have these giant halos around them, they look like Christmas lights!” By the way, Mr. Alan owned a 10,000-acre corn farm in nearby Illinois and was a multimillionaire. Just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover!
One thing I preach to practices is educating patients on their premium IOL options. Unlike Mr. Alan, many patients just hear the cost and never realize a premium IOL can help them live a better life. It’s something they will use every waking moment for the rest of their lives.
As my career progressed into practice administration, I shared with our teams that every single person is helping to change lives, whether it’s a LASIK patient needing financial support or a refractive cataract patient needing a full overview of their lens options. This shared vision can help your practice employees and surgical counselors take the necessary steps beyond the norm, to make sure each and every patient gets the best technology and, more importantly, the best vision possible. Bottom line, this new mentality can greatly increase your elective patient surgical volumes.