Premium IOLs: It’s All About Timing

Many baby boomers have spent the last few years denying that their gradual loss of vision is impairing their ability to enjoy daily activities. By the time these individuals muster up the nerve to respond to the advice of their primary eye care provider, friends, or family to do something to improve their vision, the last thing on their mind is surgical upgrades. Although patients once simply responded to their doctor’s orders, they are now presented with lifestyle lenses, out-of-pocket procedures, and a resulting multitude of decisions to make. In the mind of the consumer, refractive and cataract surgery are complex. Ophthalmologists therefore must use finesse when communicating information to patients about how to reduce their dependence on glasses and/or contact lenses.

Education and Communication

Communicating the technological merits of a procedure or a particular IOL in your advertising or marketing campaign may be far too much information for patients who are just beginning to consider their options. Conversely, if the vital components of a choice premium IOL are not broached until the time of the doctor/patient discussion, the patient is less likely to understand his options for advanced lens technology. The patient simply has not had enough time to process the information. Timing is critical.


In his book, Physician Success Secrets: How the Best Get Better, Greg Korneluk states that 50% to 80% of the information provided by clinicians is instantly forgotten by patients1 and only 50% of their recall is correct. If patients accurately remember only 25% of what you tell them in general, imagine how that percentage decreases when the information conveyed has little to do with what they expected to hear. It is no wonder that patients’ adoption of refractive IOLs is slower than the demand perceived by industry.

For patients to participate in the decision to restore their vision, the clinical and educational aspects of the process must be memorable or experiential. Like the dynamic structure (Figure 1) of a play, the conversation about a patient’s surgical options should be broken into stages. Not all information should be communicated during the initial exposition.

Exposition: The Cataract Call

A new cataract patient calls your office and says, “My doctor mentioned that I have cataracts and that I need to see an ophthalmologist.” In most cases, he will be scheduled for a cataract consultation with you or the optometrist, and he may be informed about paperwork or that his pupils will be dilated. Unless he receives an inkling of the important decisions awaiting him, his dramatic storyline has not begun. He will be far less likely to embrace the idea of advanced IOL technology at the point of service.

What if, as an alternative opening act, when the new patient calls, the staff offers him a cataract consultation but stresses that cataract surgery is a big decision because of the available range of visual options? What would happen if an employee also stressed to the patient the importance of his researching his surgical options before the consultation by visiting the practice’s Web site? What if the employee also mentioned that the patient would receive a packet of information on the decision-making process? In my opinion, these steps increase patients’ ability to participate meaningfully in their surgical care. Communicating too much information over the phone, however, could overwhelm the patient.


The decision to undergo vision-correcting surgery is a big one for patients. The range of technology available can confuse and frustrate them. By staging patients’ education like a theatrical production in which their initial interaction with your staff represents the exposition, you and your team can help patients make a quality decision on their care.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

1. Korneluk G. Physician Success Secrets: How the Best Get Better. Boca Raton, FL: International Council for Quality Care; 2004.

How to Create an Exceptional Experience for Patients

Adopting great customer service as an overall philosophy is key to your practice’s longevity in the LASIK market. Simply selling the red carpet treatment to your patients is not enough. It is essential for you to deliver excellent care consistently. This article addresses the gap between your practice’s image and reality, and it offers advice for optimizing every patient/doctor encounter.

Establish an Image

Decide how you want the public to view your practice (eg, technology-driven or one with a highly skilled physician). Then, make sure that image is present in everything you are marketing and advertising to your potential patients. Ensure that your practice’s services reflect your image and that every staff member upholds it. For example, if you promise patients personal care and one-on-one communication, then warmly greet every patient when he walks through the door.

Evaluate, Educate, and Empower

Today’s counselors must follow the lead of each patient rather than a standard protocol. Tailoring your message to individuals will maximize their experience at your practice. For instance, young, Internet-savvy patients may have conducted extensive research on their own. They may want a few specific answers from you before scheduling surgery. Other patients may look to you for step-by-step education. They will probably have more time to invest and will expect you to do the same.

Points of Contact

Your patients’ experiences boil down to how you make them feel throughout the process of vision correction. You should strive to impress patients from the point of contact and with every detail thereafter. From a caller’s time on hold to a handshake and a smile at the end of a visit, each of your interactions is an opportunity for you to acquire a new patient.

First Impressions

Your initial phone call with a potential patient is crucial. This first impression can either mean a new patient (and word-of-mouth referrals) or a missed opportunity. Hire positive, informative, sincere intake personnel. Train them to be proactive when addressing issues like technology, safety, and what makes your practice superior to the competition. By addressing LASIK fees early and offering competitive financing options, such as CareCredit’s no-interest payment plans, you can help ease prospective patients’ concerns about price and earn their trust.

The Consultation as an Interview

Try asking prospective patients a simple question such as, Why now? Give them the opportunity to tell their story and to share their motivations and concerns. By asking open-ended questions, you may get all the answers you need and allow patients to sell themselves on refractive surgery.

Be upfront about potential complications and carefully consider your words when discussing the procedure. At the John-Kenyon American Eye Institute in Louisville, KY, Manager of Refractive Services Markey Ratliff relies on scripted material (with a personal touch) to ensure the message is consistent with her practice’s image and the physician’s style. Words can allay fears. For example, you might say measurements instead of tests, procedure instead of surgery, and creating the flap instead of cutting the flap.

Deliver a Stress-Free Procedure

Your patients will look forward to surgery but also may feel anxious about it. Turn any negative feelings into positive ones with words and gestures of reassurance. For example, at Ms. Ratliff’s practice, she and her colleagues strive to deliver a soothing, spa-like experience with little extras such as blankets, movies, and music. If patients seem nervous, Ms. Ratliff offers to sit with them and hold their hand during treatment. After the procedure, she and her colleagues make sure to thank patients for choosing their facility and send handwritten thank-you cards.


Assess your marketing and advertising materials and compare them with those of other local practices. If several LASIK centers in your market push general features, such as personal care or technology, get specific about how your technology is superior and how you personalize each patient’s experience.

Spend half a day observing your practice from your patients’ point of view. What makes them smile? When do they seem frustrated? Is the atmosphere too clinical to put nervous patients at ease? Ask patients for their input on ways to improve everything from décor to waiting times.


Phil Jackson, the Director of Refractive Service at Associated Eye Care in Stillwater, MN, and his colleagues refer to the waiting room as the lounge. It has soft, relaxing chairs and is stocked with educational books instead of outdated magazines. A greeting system welcomes patients and keeps them informed of waiting times. Mr. Jackson has found that they really appreciate the extra effort.


Follow-up care is part of the total patient experience. Use questionnaires, focus groups, and testimonials to find out where your practice really excels and, more importantly, where it needs improvement. Then, follow through on making the appropriate changes.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

How To Market Your Refractive Practice

Are your marketing efforts producing healthy call volumes and a strong conversion rate? If the quantity of incoming, positive telephone calls could improve, then read on for suggestions on how to increase your refractive volumes with strategic marketing maneuvers starting at the practice level.

Start with What You Have

In terms of marketing dollars, it is far less expensive to attempt to convert a current caller into a potential patient rather than to motivate a new person to pick up the phone and contact your practice. It is also more cost effective to market additional procedures or continuing eye care to your existing patient database than to try to lure new patients to make an appointment at your facility. You can start, simply, by focusing your marketing efforts on enhancing your practice’s image and by establishing clear and memorable communications.

Identify Targets

Implement your marketing strategy, which should be based upon current research, such as market factors approximating consumers’ spending patterns and levels of discretionary income. Invest in the collection and evaluation of professional data and conduct training sessions to educate your staff about the minds of consumers.

Stay in touch with your patients by consistently requesting their feedback in order to be knowledgeable about their needs and to recognize areas in which your practice or team can improve. By understanding what your patients want, you not only can better meet their expectations for vision correction, but you can stimulate them to call in the first place.

Stage Memorable Experiences

Focus on exceptional experiences for your patients. Come up with ways to improve a patient’s experience before concentrating on expensive media advertising. Involve staff members in the strategic brainstorming process as characters in the production. Your employees who are truly invested in new ideas are more likely to contribute their thoughts and opinions for implementing and maintaining important protocols.

Start Marketing from First Contact

Take the “inside-out” approach by putting yourself in your patient’s shoes. Make sure, first, that phone calls correspond with your marketing messages. Imagine your disappointment if you received an impressive, high-quality brochure advertising a positive personalized experience, in addition to a knowledgeable, friendly staff, but instead you were greeted by a grumpy intake person who was reluctant to answer your questions.

The staffers in charge of initial, potential patients’ phone calls should have a warm and friendly personality, and they should be informative, persuasive, and confident. The training, support, and evaluation of these types of personnel are crucial to your practice’s growth. Consider using scripted material when training intake workers. Information that these employees should communicate includes countering cost barriers, promoting the surgeon’s experience, and discussing the values and benefits of surgery. Compensate these staff members well as they strive to grow your conversion rates.

Market During Head-to-Head Consultations

Face-to-face consultations should be a continuation of your marketing efforts. Think of the encounter with a potential patient as an interview or audition: prospective patients are looking to you for important information on a procedure and deciding whether to choose your practice instead of your local competitors.’ This visit is a golden opportunity for you to listen to and address specific obstacles to the patient’s committing to surgery and to provide highly personalized feedback and recommendations.

Address a Patient’s Fear Early

During calls and consultations, your staff must be able to anticipate and address patients’ fears before discussing prices or procedures and treatment. Your staff should emphasize your surgical skill level and bedside manner. They should get patients excited about the possibility of clear vision by asking them what they hope to accomplish with the procedure. Staffers should ask them to share specific concerns and then address each with positive answers that are well thought out.

It is an excellent time to elicit and address each candidate’s apprehensiveness and to discuss long-term benefits. Emphasize value; a procedure takes little time, but improved vision lasts for years.

Counter Cost with Financing

In our experience, the earlier we address patients’ concerns about cost, the less likely they are to sever the relationship during the consultation stage. Use patient financing as a marketing tool. Regularly evaluate your fees and financing plans. Talk to patients and record their feedback. If you are not currently offering a wide variety of payment plans with true benefits, search for different financing options that will assist patients with comfortably fitting vision correction into their budgets.

Marketing as a Collaboration

Your internal marketing plan must reflect a cohesive image for your practice. The philosophy behind your practice should be apparent in all aspects of your marketing and advertising efforts. Never underestimate the power of first impressions.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.

Establishing Core Values in the Workplace

Core values are patient-centered principles that guide the actual tasks that we do. The goal is that every action taken will optimize the overall experience of the patient. Just as doctors take a Hippocratic oath to “do no harm,” our clinic’s team took an oath to deliver the best refractive surgery care and ensure the best experience for our patients.

The Vance Thompson Vision team agreed to abide by a list of core values that represents the unwritten or traditional rules within us all. It is our standard of behavior and what we expect from one another as a team. Our group has been doing what we do for a long time. We believe we know how to deliver care with the highest level of quality. As we grow, it is vital for us to impart those standards of excellence to our newer members. When every team member commits to a list of core values that they believe is consistent with how they would want to be treated, it maximizes the chance that it is exactly how they will treat our patients, thus making for a very positive patient experience. We did not want the continued growth of our practice to compromise the standards and atmosphere that have made us successful during the last 15 years.

Building the List

Our list of core values was based upon the philosophy of many cutting-edge companies from other consumer driven industries such as The Ritz-Carlton. We felt we had to start with industries that pride themselves on knowing their customers better than anyone. Then, we took our own thoughts and ideas about how we like to be treated and created our own list of basic customer service values.

Five Core Values at Vance Thompson Vision

  • “Our patients are our most important resource. They should be treated like guests and family visiting our home.”
  • “Each team member is empowered to look for ways to exceed the patient’s expectations and enhance their experience at all times.”
  • “Each patient should experience our undivided attention. Their preferred name should be used, they should be escorted at all times, and all attention should focus on them when they are present.”
  • “Each team member should look at each patient they encounter as an opportunity and privilege to affect their life in a positive way. Each patient should leave here feeling better then when they arrived.”
  • “Each team member should participate in a Cadence of Coverage that over-communicates responsibilities and workflow so that we can best meet the needs of each other and our patients.”

Employees’ Adherence

Each of our team members signs the Declaration of Core Values, which gives us all ownership in the aforementioned philosophy. It permeates every patient interaction in our office. Additionally, we feel it positively affects the way our employees treat each other in the workplace.

Rules Do Not Change — They Grow

We believe it is important for surgeons and office managers to realize that, just as the refractive surgery market changes, core values evolve. We review our list on an annual basis during an off-site retreat with our entire staff. Each person voices his opinion on each core value and helps decide on necessary updates, eliminations, etc. We really want to hear from all employees because it will affect the work they do in their job function.

“The process of upholding and devising proper core values never ends for an organization that continues to grow.”

The process of upholding and devising proper core values never ends for an organization that continues to grow. We are passionate about delivering the best service we can while continually learning from other companies.


It is important to recruit people who are willing to embrace our center’s core values and to be up front about what we are trying to achieve. One of Vance Thompson Vision’s philosophies is to recruit talented individuals who naturally adhere to these core values, because those characteristics — unlike a knowledge of ophthalmology — are difficult to teach. The key is to provide a working environment that nurtures these core values. The benefit of defining our team’s core values is that it gets everyone moving in the same direction, but, more importantly, it puts premium patient care where it belongs — at the point of service.


This article originally appeared in Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today. Click here to download a PDF version.