The Economics of Laser Cataract Surgery
Many patients want improved refractive outcomes and are willing to pay for it. Will it work for your facility?
Jim Burger, Associate Editor
It's pretty simple, really. Given the choice, no one wants less-than-perfect eyesight. That obvious truth is at the heart of a burgeoning and relatively new enterprise: cataract surgery that doesn't just blow away the clouds, it blows away the years. When all goes well, eyes get restored to their original factory settings, glasses get put away in junk drawers and contact lens solution is left to quietly expire under the sink.
Laser cataract surgery is a godsend for patients and for eye surgeons, who for years have endured shrinking reimbursements for standard cataract treatments. No, Medicare and most private insurers won't pay for first-class vision enhancement, but an increasing number of patients will.
"People use their vision every single waking moment of every single day of their lives," says James Dawes, MHA, CMPE, COE, chief administrative officer at the Center for Sight in Sarasota, Fla. "When you look at the cost, over the lifetime of a patient, we're only talking about a few dollars a day."
The procedures, says Mr. Dawes, represent a perfect value equation: an additional revenue stream for providers, enthusiastic patients who spread the word and resulting goodwill that further improves the bottom line.
"The No. 1 impact is that our patients are much happier," says Mr. Dawes. "And when they're happier, they tell other patients, because they now have dramatically improved lifestyles. They're seeing without glasses. That happiness spreads and manifests itself in the other parts of our practice, whether it's glaucoma or retina or primary eye care."
Good, better, best
Cataract patients at the Center for Sight have 3 choices: The top of the line is the "Advanced Vision" package, which costs $3,295 per eye and is designed to eliminate the need for corrective lenses. It includes the femtosecond laser, a multifocal IOL, an LRI or astigmatic treatment, and, if necessary, LASIK enhancement.