December 2015

 

REFRACTIVE SURGERY

 

Are LASIK numbers declining?


by Ellen Stodola EyeWorld Staff Writer

 
   

Experts offer suggestions on what can be done about a decline in LASIK procedures

Are LASIK numbers declining across the board? Many seem to think so, including three surgeons who commented in this article. They indicated that a number of factors may play into a decline in LASIK surgery numbers and share what they think can be done to revive the procedure. Manoj Motwani, MD, Motwani LASIK Institute, San Diego, thinks that LASIK numbers are way down. Before the recession, we were doing 1.4 million eyes annually in the United States, he said. For the past few years, it has been about 600,000, and it has not been increasing. Additionally, he has found that there has been volatility in the number of patients.

The number one reason that LASIK has decreased so dramatically is fear, according to Dr. Motwani. Fear of the actual procedure is at an all-time high, he said. Although in the past physicians had a hard time getting patients to take the procedure seriously, patients are now more afraid of it. This fear also applies to the fear of spending money, which directly correlates to the economy. Finally, Dr. Motwani said, there is fear that is spread online, with information from websites and other sources preventing people from wanting LASIK. The majority of information on the web is old and wrong, with too many sites hyping LASIK complications and disaster stories when they just dont happen in a good practice, he said.

Marketing is key. Dr. Motwani said its important to get your laser company to invest marketing money to directly advertise LASIK to the public. If there was a concerted advertising campaign from larger companies, he thinks this could help counter all of the negative information that is getting out to the pubic. Doctors need to step away from the negative forces for short-term gain like massive price cutting [and] trashing other surgeons and make a team effort to counteract the myths out there, he said.

Jonathan Rubenstein, MD, vice-chairman and Deutsch Family Professor, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, thinks his LASIK volume may be down slightly, but his volume was not particularly high to begin with. If there has been a drop, it is probably in the 510% range, he said. Dr. Rubenstein does not think this decrease is from patients deciding not to have the procedure. Any fluctuations in LASIK volume seem to be tied more to the economy than anything else, he said. I have not heard any negative opinions from patients about LASIK. There are a number of technologies that help improve the LASIK procedure, including femtosecond lasers and excimer lasers. As people feel more economic confidence, I think the LASIK numbers will increase, Dr. Rubenstein said. Surgeons themselves can help promote the procedure by continuing to provide quality care and good results, he said. The internal marketing that comes from a satisfied patient is still the most effective mechanism for attracting new patients. Steven Schallhorn, MD, San Diego, thinks LASIK numbers have fallen, both in the U.S. and in Europe. He attributes this decrease to several factors: the economy and cost factors, the knowledge and understanding factor, and the fear factor. First, theres continued economic uncertainty, he said. Global economics definitely play a role. The economic factor also involves cost, and the most important cost element, Dr. Schallhorn said, is the perceived value of the procedure. Perceived value is affected by how we promote LASIK, he said. Surgeons need to be intimately aware of this; it would be much more beneficial to promote LASIK as a life-changing event rather than a commodity. In the perceived value of the procedure, we can oftentimes be our worst enemy by the way we promote LASIK, he said.

The second factor, knowledge and understanding, has to do with peoples awareness of the procedure, Dr. Schallhorn said. This includes whether or not people are aware of the advances that have been made to better the procedure, including use of the femtosecond laser, customized treatments, etc.

The last major factor that Dr. Schallhorn thinks is influencing LASIK is what he calls the fear factor. Despite millions of successful procedures, patients may see one or two negative reviews and become skeptical. The use of the Internet makes it easy for a small number of dissatisfied patients to broadcast their views to a very large audience. Its understandable to have some apprehension about having surgery in general, especially on the eyes, he said.

So what can be done? Dr. Schallhorn stressed the importance of having a sound and consistent message. The message should not be that one individual performs a safer procedure than other professionals, he said. To patients, this type of promotion implies that LASIK can be unsafe, and the end result is to needlessly elevate innate fear of the procedure, he said. The outcomes of modern LASIK are incredible, he said, and they are unparalleled in terms of patient satisfaction and other metrics. However, he added that the fear factor and other issues still need to be tackled, and its important to find a way of conveying the proper value that LASIK can provide, like its many visual benefits and improvements to quality of life.

Editors note: The sources have no financial interests related to their comments.

Contact information

Motwani
: lasikdoc@drmotwani.com
Rubenstein: Jonathan_Rubenstein@rush.edu
Schallhorn: scschallhorn@yahoo.com

Are LASIK numbers declining? Are LASIK numbers declining?
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