Below are four tips to help warm your patients up to the possibility of laser-assisted cataract surgery.
Focus on results – not the procedure
What is your patient expecting from cataract surgery? Do they just want the cataract removed, or would they like to achieve independence from glasses as well? Most patients won’t care too much about the technical details about the surgery, but they will care about how the procedure will affect their future vision.
“To me, cataract surgery can be seen as falling into two categories,” said Y. Ralph Chu, MD, in an interview with Review of Ophthalmology. Dr. Chu is the founder and medical director of Chu Vision Institute in Bloomington, Minnesota. “For some patients, it’s simply a medical procedure in which we’re removing a lens and putting in an implant, followed by basic refractive care, which means glasses. On the other hand, if the patient wants the ability to function as best he can, whether at distance or at near, without glasses—or at least with less dependence on glasses—that becomes refractive cataract surgery.”
To keep your patients from becoming overwhelmed, consider bundling your services into distinct packages based on visual outcomes rather than asking patients to choose their preferred technology. When patients are given too many options, they’re more likely to opt for traditional surgery since they’re afraid of making the “wrong” choice.
Learn about your patient’s lifestyle
Lifestyle questionnaires can be an excellent way to gauge whether laser-assisted cataract surgery is right for your patient. For instance, the Dell Questionnaire, a lifestyle questionnaire created by award-winning eye surgeon Steven J. Dell, MD, is a favorite of many ophthalmologists.
Lifestyle questionnaires should address not only the patient’s desired visual outcome but also their job, hobbies, and personality. For instance, an avid bird watcher may benefit from distant vision, and a professional writer may wish to achieve independence from reading glasses. Patients who are informed about how laser-assisted cataract surgery can help them achieve their desired lifestyle are more likely to opt for premium procedures.
Don’t assume a patient isn’t willing to pay extra
As tempting as it might be, try not to make assumptions about your patient’s financial situation. Some individuals prefer to splurge on their healthcare, whereas others might want to spend their money elsewhere.
“You cannot judge a book by its cover,” said Dr. Chu. “We get a wide range of patients who choose to do this kind of procedure, and their financial status may have nothing to do with it. It’s more of an attitude thing.”
If your patient expresses an interest in refractive cataract surgery and/or has a lifestyle that would benefit from a refractive procedure, bring up the possibility of laser-assisted cataract surgery. Keep in mind that there are payment plans to make the procedure more affordable, as well.
Don’t knock manual cataract surgery
Laser-assisted cataract surgery provides many benefits over traditional cataract surgery: it’s more precise, it requires less phacoemulsification power, and it may reduce the risk of postoperative endophthalmitis.
When describing this technology to your patients, however, be careful not to imply that laser-assisted cataract surgery is safer or otherwise better than manual cataract surgery. Many of your patients will elect to receive traditional surgery, and it’s important that they remain confident in your ability to remove their cataracts regardless of the technology you use.