“The IOL Counselor is one of the best education tools available to show patients what the strengths and limitations of these lenses are. The simulation is exactly what it’s like. And I know. I’ve had the surgery.”
Figure 3: Sagittal views of various refractive errors further enhance patients’ understanding, especially when it comes to presbyopia and astigmatism.
Eye Specialists in Tennessee, a
surgical counselor who’s undergone bilateral premium lens implantation coupled with
use of the IOL Counselor is a recipe for success.
Vicki Cureton has more than just empathy for the patients she sees at Southeast Eye Specialists—she was recently a patient there herself and underwent bilateral ReZoom implantation.
“I’m at 20/15 and J1+, and now that I’ve had it done myself, I can tell patients exactly what to expect,” she said. She attributes the success her practice has had in converting patients to the premium IOLs to her ability to talk to them from experience, and to the IOL Counselor, which has been in her offices since May.
“The IOL Counselor is one of the best education tools available to show patients what the strengths and limitations of these lenses are,” she said. “We can show them exactly what we’re talking about, even with the toric lens. The simulation is exactly what it’s like. And I know. I’ve had the surgery.”
Ms. Cureton personally follows through with every candidate for premium lenses. “From day one, it really makes sense to the patient. Before the IOL Counselor, it was hard to describe what patients should expect from the surgery and from the lenses. It was hard to get a ‘real picture’ from them about their visual complaints. Plus, the IOL Counselor has helped us explain glare and halos. That used to be our biggest post-op complaint, but after patients have seen the simulations, they know what to expect and that those symptoms will get better 90 days later,” she said.
When patients first see the IOL Counselor simulations, “surgery and the options become real to them,” Ms. Cureton said. “They’re dilated when the simulations get shown to them. They can immediately relate. They can see how things are changing for them, and how they’re going to change after surgery. The program lets us use what we can to fit patients’ needs. They can see the value up front.” This means better vision with an easy-to-manage payment plan.
Since implementing the IOL Counselor, there has been an increase in conversion rates every month, Ms. Cureton said. “Of our candidates, maybe two don’t convert. Some people don’t want to pay the money or can’t afford to. We do not advertise. We get our referrals from optometrists. We’re really more of a co-management consultation business.”
The IOL Counselor serves as more of an education tool for everyone in the office, Ms. Cureton said. “We’ve involved our entire office in the IOL Counselor and how to use it. It takes a whole team to make it work. It’s not about selling a lens,” she said.
Before the IOL Counselor, Southeast Eye rarely financed the upgraded lenses. “We finance quite a bit now,” Ms. Cureton said. “I invite the patient’s family to come in to see what the patient is being offered. I decided to do this as some spouses don’t know what their husbands or wives are going through because they’ve got good vision themselves. We’ve seen family members who decide they’ll finance for their relatives.”
Patients are expected to be fearful of the procedure, she said, but the IOL Counselor helps to de-mystify the surgery. “It really does help in taking the fear out of the unknown. I tell our patients that I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and when it came time for my surgery, I was nervous because it was still the unknown. I’m here to help our patients get through the fear and through the education process.”
Southeast Eye averages 4,000 cataract surgeries a year, Ms. Cureton
“When we first saw the IOL Counselor, the thing that came to all our minds was that we’re too busy. We have more than 150 referring optometrists and 18 different satellites our docs come to,” she said.
In 2006, the practice averaged four to six patients a month who opted for premium lens implantations, but now that the IOL Counselor is fully integrated into the practice, they’re averaging 10 patients a month, Ms. Cureton said.
“The physicians said they didn’t want to just sell a lens, they wanted choices. So we decided every patient with cataract should see the IOL Counselor.”
To cut down on physician chair time, everyone in the office has been trained on how to use the IOL Counselor, and the technicians complete the workups. The technician determines from the Dell questionnaire and patient interviews if the patient is interested in the premium lenses.
At that point, Ms. Cureton explains the IOL Counselor and shows the patient the various scenarios. Then, and only then, will the patient see the surgeon. If the surgeon determines that the patient is a good candidate, Ms. Cureton goes through the whole IOL Counselor tutorial with the patient.
“It’s not about selling a lens. It’s about customizing a lens to the patient’s lifestyle. That’s the foundation of my presentations to our offices and physicians,” she said.
Once the patient has committed to the premium lens, Ms. Cureton and her staff are the primary contacts.
“We’re taking the chair time out of the doctor’s lap and putting it into ours. We’ve made the commitment to our patients to provide them the most education we can. We never tell them this is an upgrade; we say we’re customizing a lens for their needs.”
One obstacle Ms. Cureton had to overcome was the initial resistance from the OD referral offices.
“They thought we were going to try and implant these lenses in every patient just to make money, so a lot of our up front time was devoted to re-educating the OD that we must be selective on who to implant the lens in. Patient education is just as important as patient selection,” she said.
Vicki Cureton is the director of patient services at Southeast Eye Specialists in Chattanooga, Tenn. She can be reached at (423) 508-7337, ext. 107. She has no financial interest in the IOL Counselor or the products featured in the software program.