Article

Conversations with potential LASIK patients

How to use empathetic and clinical skills to appropriately answer their most common pre-surgery questions.

While vision correction technology advances globally, one thing remains consistent: many ophthalmic professionals struggle to connect with patients regarding elective procedures. The management of LASIK questions and patient interaction continues to be top of mind. The key is in the dialogue. By identifying the individual’s motivation and communicating solutions, you will establish trust. Once you make this connection, you will experience increased success rates, hence moving patients forward to surgery.

As you get to know your patient, you will recognize common concerns, the most common of which is fear (of blindness, making the wrong choice, pain, unexpected complications, etc.). Your job is to identify these fears and reduce anxiety by connecting with the patient. After establishing trust, the patient will be more comfortable making decisions. Most importantly, the patient will listen more attentively, and you can better set the proper expectations with patients pre- and post-operatively.

This article provides the framework to engage with each patient you encounter. Below are five of the most common questions asked by potential LASIK patients along with multiple responses. Adapt the responses to your situation, choosing the answer that makes the most sense for your practice and patient.

LASIK patient conversation tips

  • Have a two-sided conversation. With open dialogue, you educate the patient by identifying both clinical and lifestyle needs and then addressing features, benefits, and advantages specific to the patient.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Position your conversations properly with questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response. Open-ended questions have no limits on their response, and you will learn more about the person in front of you.
  • Show confidence. Word your responses with assumptive phrases such as “when you have your procedure with us,” “during your LASIK consultation,” and “when you meet the surgeon.” Using assumptive phrases imparts confidence to the patient and puts the counselor in control. Most importantly, these phrases leave less room for the standard “excuses,” such as “I need to check my schedule,” or “I need to think about it a little more.”
  • Interact with the patient. Whenever possible, do all you can to bring the patients into your practice. This includes making a connection. Shake their hand, ask about their day, and put them at ease.
  • Be mindful of your language. While you use acronyms and clinical verbiage when speaking with fellow staff members, you need to learn to use “patient-friendly” jargon during LASIK consultations.
  • Show and tell. If your lasers are on site, a tour of the facility may be an excellent way to show increased value while also reducing fear. Explain what each piece of equipment can do to achieve the desired result.
  • Circle back. At the end of your consult, if you still hear some hesitation in your patient’s voice, ask a few more questions. Hesitations usually mean you have not overcome every obstacle or objection.

1. Am I a candidate?

“That is a great question because this is a very exciting time in ophthalmology for patients seeking vision correction. Did you know that you may be a candidate for one or more of the procedures we offer for vision correction?”

  • Always keep the patient engaged by responding with another question.

“With our surgeon’s skills and advancements in technology, we are able to correct a wider range of patient prescriptions with more accuracy and predictability than ever before. Truly the time has never been better to think about LASIK. Let’s look at the calendar and set up the appropriate tests needed to ensure your candidacy. This way you can have your procedure in the time frame that you were planning. How does that sound?”

“Based on what we know so far, you appear to be in the range of what we can treat. Once we evaluate you clinically, our surgeon will make a recommendation on the procedure that will give you your best personal vision. We base candidacy on not only your medical eye health, but also your lifestyle needs. Is this what you expected?”

“Very few medical conditions will eliminate your candidacy for LASIK. Most patients who walk in our door qualify for some type of procedure that will reduce or eliminate their need for contact lenses and glasses. Do you know anyone who has had LASIK or another vision correction procedure?”

2. How long will it last?

“LASIK is a permanent correction to your existing vision prescription. Our goal is to correct your vision to allow you freedom from glasses and contact lenses. How you heal and the rate at which you heal can vary from person to person. Patients with higher degrees of nearsightedness and farsightedness can sometimes under or over respond to treatment. In these cases we offer what is called a “touch up.” Touch ups are included in your cost provided you attend all your follow up visits for one year. (Insert your practice’s percentage of patients with that prescription needing a touch up.)”

  • Always quantify responses. Support your statements with statistics.

“While the correction is permanent, some prescription drugs can affect your vision. Pregnancy can also bring changes in vision. Age-related vision changes, most commonly related to the development of a cataract, can occur. The doctor will review any medical conditions that can affect your vision.”

  • Address reading vision later as you uncover lifestyle needs.

3. What if I need it done again?

“Typically, we know within three to six months of your procedure if your vision is stable. Then, we can discuss a touch up. If your vision changes dramatically years after surgery, there are usually other medical factors.”

“As long as you attend all of your follow-up visits, we can properly monitor your progress and you can discuss the need for a touch up with the doctor. If a touch up is required, we can schedule it. (Insert your specific enhancement policy.) If a touch up is needed after the anniversary of your treatment, a comprehensive dilated eye exam will be required. Once we know your vision is no longer fluctuating, we can perform your touch up. Does that make sense?”

4. Could my vision end up worse? Could I go blind?

“This is a common question, and it is understandable to have concerns. First, let me tell you that you have chosen the right place.”

  • Always reinforce the positive. The response for this question is multifaceted.

“As with any procedure, there is always a chance that you can over or under respond to your treatment. With patients with your prescription, that happens (insert your practice’s percentage).

  • Always quantify your response.

“There is always a chance of infection; however, in our practice chance of infection is (insert your practice statistics). Did you know you are at a much higher percentage of getting a sight-threatening infection from wearing contact lenses?”

  • Again, reaffirm and redirect.

“Our patients use antibiotic eye drops pre- and post-operatively to reduce the probability of infection. This is also why we require you to attend a one-day, one-week and one-month post-operative appointment. Monitoring your progress closely will ensure a successful recovery.”

“You will be provided instructions that will assist in ensuring your personal best results. It is critical you follow these instructions and attend all your appointments. We will monitor your vision and make adjustments to the instruction regimen if needed.”

“The laser we use to correct your vision is extremely precise and predictable, but also extremely gentle. No one has ever lost their vision in our office due to the application of the excimer and femtosecond lasers.”

5. How much does it cost?

Patients know to ask this one question because the industry has created an environment in which they see LASIK as something they can “shop around for.” Your task is to gain the patient’s confidence so they do not feel a need to shop. Conversation and engagement is critical to overcoming price objections.

Here are some responses:

“That is a great question and the most common question patients ask when they are considering LASIK. I am absolutely going to review pricing with you as we evaluate your candidacy today. Did you know that you may be a candidate for one or more of the procedures we now offer in our practice?”

  • Wait for the answer as this can take you in another direction away from the cost.

“The surgeon will make a recommendation. It is based on our conversations today, your profession, your extracurricular activities, and our assessment of your clinical requirements. The prices can vary based on procedure recommendations. If you don’t mind me asking, what was your expectation on the price?”

  • Listen for the response, which will provide you the proper information to answer the question.

“You will be happy to know that our price for LASIK includes all of your pre- and post-operative follow up care for one year. Our comprehensive exam costs [insert price], and the price will be credited toward your procedure. You may be required to purchase some prescription eye drops, but we will provide _____ [the standard items your practice provides]. It is important to keep in mind that everyone heals differently. Some people over or under respond to treatment. Because of this, our price will include a touch up, if needed, within the one-year anniversary of your procedure. How does that sound?”

  • You must tell the patient the cost, but always provide the value first. If you lead with the price, the patient may not listen to the package details.

Conclusion

If you believe vision correction is a viable solution to dependence on glasses and contact lenses, you should be able to get your patient to “see” LASIK as a life-enhancing solution. If you can do this, you can encourage your patient to make the decision to proceed sooner than later. Remember to engage, listen, and frame your response based on each situation. OP