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You Can Recession-proof Your LASIK Practice

Sluggish economy got you down? Learn how you can keep your LASIK practice flourishing in spite of it

You Can Recession-proof Your LASIK Practice

Sluggish economy got you down? Learn how you can keep your LASIK practice flourishing in spite of it.

By Kay Coulson, Contributing Editor

Many LASIK practices are feeling the pinch. This U.S. economic contraction feels more serious than the 2001 LASIK doldrums. Back then, we dealt with the technology bubble-burst of failed dot-com companies and newly heightened terrorist fears. A smaller subsection of the economy was affected, and people hesitant to spend on LASIK seemed driven by guilt, "Now's not the right time." Today, our malaise is much deeper. It's not that people won't spend; it appears they can't spend. Rising housing, food and energy prices have affected a much broader sector of the population, chipping away at discretionary income.

Yet within this downturn, there's still opportunity to grow your elective vision practice. Boomers account for the largest segment of our patient demographic, with their high incomes and willingness to invest in quality-of-life improvements. The equally large generation Y population has reached the lower age range for LASIK, and they've grown up embracing technology and accepting elective procedures. LASIK can and should be on the cusp of amazing growth. But how do you capitalize on this opportunity? How do you construct a practice that's valuable, recession-proof, lucrative and satisfying? You have to get very real, very fast, about what you do and how well you do it.

Practice owners of thriving LASIK centers today understand and leverage two things: antes and drivers. Antes are those requirements that allow you to open your LASIK doors. They're all-important to customers, yet they don't distinguish you from other providers in your market.

What are LASIK Antes?

LASIK antes include surgeon experience, proven technology, reasonable fees and elevated customer service. If we take an objective, unbiased view of our industry, what do we see?

Every surgeon performing LASIK is experienced. Does it matter if the physician has done 1,000 cases or 50,000 cases?

All LASIK technology is more accurate and safer for patients — from the excimer laser to the microkeratome, the topographer, aberrometer and now the femtosecond laser. Is one platform truly better than another? Some providers charge $1,000 per eye for LASIK, while others charge $4,000. Is there a measurable difference in patient outcomes?

Many LASIK centers provide better customer service than traditional ophthalmology offices. Has this made a difference in expanding our customer base?

What are the Drivers for LASIK success? There are two.
1. Deliver the vision patients want.
2. Make patients feel valued and cared for every step of the way while you're doing it.

Fact is, our market is flat at 1.4 million eyes, and has been for years. The average fee practices collect for LASIK has gone from about $1,700 to $2,000 per eye over the last 10 years, yet incremental fee increases have been absorbed by technology investments. As a whole, we're not doing more cases, and we're not making more money. Yet, there are phenomenal success stories within the LASIK universe. Physicians are doing more cases; practices have become more profitable, and owners are building stellar LASIK legacies. How? They understand what drives the LASIK customer.

What are the Drivers?

Drivers are a source of distinction each practice must achieve to accelerate growth. They're important to your target customer and distinguish you from other providers. These benefits may be tangible or intangible, but my experience has been that intangibles make the difference between growth and stagnation in a LASIK practice. What are the Drivers for LASIK success? There are two.

■ Deliver the vision patients want.

■ Make patients feel valued and cared for every step of the way while you're doing it.

The following series of articles detail how four successful LASIK practice owners have elevated their performance by adhering to these drivers. I hope you find them enlightening, and feel reinvigorated about your own LASIK center and your opportunities to spur growth.