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Archive May 2018 XIX, No. 5

The Case for Adding Ophthalmic Lasers

These low-cost procedures provide plenty of bang for the buck.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief


EYE BLACK Demand for laser treatments is increasing right along with the technology's profit potential.
Investing in therapeutic lasers to perform capsulotomies and treat glaucoma and retinal pathology is a financial no-brainer. There's no shortage of patients seeking out the treatments, the required investment won't bust your capital equipment budget and the profit potential is significant.

"It's an easy case to make in terms of dollars and cents," says Stephen C. Sheppard, CPA, COE, managing principal at the Medical Consulting Group in Springfield, Mo.

Let's work off a few assumptions before taking a closer look at the numbers to find out why:

• Surgeon-owners are operating. It makes sense to add laser procedures if surgeons have ownership stakes in your facility because they'll get a share of the facility's reimbursements and pocket the physicians' fees, points out Ralph Paylor, MD, managing partner at Florida Eye Associates/ASC of Brevard.

Physician fees are also slightly lower for laser procedures performed in surgery centers instead of offices. The per-case decreases might not seem like a lot — surgeons earn about $19 less per YAG capsulotomy, for example — but they add up with these high-volume procedures. If surgeons don't have ownership shares in an ophthalmic-only surgery center or have only a minority share in a multi-specialty center, it probably makes more financial sense for them to collect higher physician fees in their offices.

• It's convenient. Surgeons are more likely to bring laser cases to your facility if their clinic is physically attached or very close by, says James Dawes, MHA, CMPE, COE, president and founder of the J. Dawes Group, a consulting firm based in Sarasota, Fla.

That's why YAG capsulotomies might be the easiest to add — high-volume cataract surgeons are already in your facility and can take care of laser patients before or after performing surgery. Dr. Paylor performs YAG capsulotomies on the same day he performs cataract surgeries. "The procedures take about 2 minutes to perform," he says. "Patients are in and out of the facility in 2 hours."

Mr. Sheppard says investing in laser platforms might also attract surgeons from a practice with offices in several locations who prefer to bring cases to a facility in a centralized location or surgeons from low-volume practices who don't have the budget or interest to invest in their own unit.

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