Fear and Finances- Addressing the Obstacles to Laser Vision Correction

Last summer, we embarked on a trial program with the goals of providing great vision at a reasonable price point while reducing the fear that is inherent to eye surgery. Part of my goal was to make eye surgery more accessible to patients in their 20s and 30s as they tend to have nearsighted eyes that respond beautifully to treatment.

Wavefront Lasik surgery typically costs $5,000 and up. It is worth every penny but most people don’t have $5,000 to spend on a luxury surgery. Couple this with the reservations that any sane person would have about having surgery on their otherwise healthy eyes and it is no wonder that only a small percentage of the US population has had Laser Vision Correction.

I took a hard look at our approach and felt that we could help reduce or eliminate these two barriers to entry. One aspect was the duration of post-operative care. Traditionally, we include a year of post-op care after surgery. However, at least 50% of our patients do not follow up beyond one month. They know they can see well and proceed to go about living their lives. With insurance-based surgery such as cataract surgery the global post-op period of care is 90 days, so we now offer packages at a reduced rate that include 3 months of post-op care.

I also have an ethical problem with extended warranties and Lasik. With older generation lasers (also known as conventional lasers) the retreatment or enhancement rate was 15% or more. With Wavefront Lasik technology my 20/20 rate is above 95% and my retreatment rate is less than 1%. My first priority and duty is to advocate for my patients, including their financial health. With our fantastic track record and a 1% retreatment rate, I have to question why anyone would want to pay extra for a de facto insurance policy which has a 99% chance of not being used? I could emphasize more inclusive treatment packages that include retreatments at a premium and make more money but I’m a Physician first (meaning my patients are my first priority) and have to sleep well at night. For routine cases I give my patients the option to effectively self-insure and save their money. In those rare cases when I do perform a retreatment it is done at a significantly reduced rate.

The other method that saves our patients money is our technique. When I perform Lasik with a flap, I use a $400,000 laser that applies millions of tiny laser spots to make the flap and another $400,000 laser to apply the laser treatment and effectively etch the prescription into the Cornea. Making a flap this way is an elegant and fantastic way to perform surgery but costs us more and we have to charge more as a result.

When I perform No-Cut Lasik (AKA modern PRK or Advanced Surface Ablation), I avoid the first $400,000 laser step and apply the laser treatment to the surface of the eye. It is still the exact same vision correction treatment in both techniques only without cutting a flap in the eye. The outcomes are fantastic and are the same in both techniques because, again, the vision correction laser is the same.

The one area that I will not compromise is the actual Laser Vision Correction or Wavefront Treatment. That is the key to the procedure and getting great results. I am a premium surgeon and simply refuse to use older technology with inferior results.

In summary, we can save patients money by reducing the post-op care period from a year down to 3 months, passing on high cost retreatment insurance policies and using long-accepted, standards of care surgical techniques that avoid further costs.


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