Declining reimbursement has long been a factor impacting the bottom line of healthcare practices around the United States. Today, it’s a safe assumption that the ophthalmologists in your practice are working harder yet earning less. Generating new revenue, raising prices, and developing marketing strategies to increase sales of your premium service offerings are all important ways to shore up your bottom line.
This article will provide you with some actionable tips for increasing sales of your premium LASIK and cataract services to generate increased revenue for your practice.
According to the market data, COVID-19 has had a significantly negative impact on the volume of refractive procedures performed in 2020, dropping by more than 17%. At the same time, the suspension of elective cataract treatment during COVID profoundly affected ophthalmology practices. One study suggested that, based on prior trends, 3.7 million cataract surgeries, would have been performed in 2020 on Medicare patients, meaning that today, there is a significant cataract surgical patient backlog.
While the numbers vary on how far cataract surgery volume declined during COVID, the typical ophthalmology practice experienced a 5% or higher education in these surgeries during lockdown. Another education health system-specific case study documented 1,107 vision-related surgical procedures performed in April 2019. One year later that number dropped to 117 during the same month.
With these sobering numbers in mind, we would suggest that the pandemic actually created new opportunities to market these elective procedures; after all, glasses and masks can create some challenges. While elective surgeries were canceled in some markets over the past two years, it allowed some practices to capitalize on their creativity in marketing to push procedures such as LASIK to the forefront of their target demographics.
Now that the suspension of elective procedures is over, there is both opportunity and necessity driving ophthalmologists to perform both cataract and LASIK to increase their patient volume. What steps can practices take right now to increase the bottom-line revenue from these procedures
Any business has a few options when considering ways to increase their bottom line:
Let’s rule out that last one. The current staffing shortage environment coupled with rising prices on supplies make lowering fixed costs a difficult proposition. Many ophthalmology practices already cut to the bone during COVID and the subsequent slowdown of elective procedures. Additionally, given that every industry is struggling with staffing shortages, it’s probably not the right time to look for ways to reduce benefits or other types of staff-attracting perks.
Increasing the volume of procedures as well as increasing the types of services you offer makes sense, especially since approved elective surgery patients have been waiting to receive their procedures. However, there are only so many hours in a day, so evaluating your practice to identify ways to optimize every patient encounter may be a smarter option. Also, if cash flow or provider specialization is an issue, it simply may not be the right time to roll out new types of services.
One good question to ask here is whether your practice hours coordinate well with consumer demand, meaning it’s not just the volume of hours you are open to see patients each week, but whether you are open hours most convenient for your customers.
Another consideration is how and what you bill. Improving billing and collections goes hand-in-hand with the idea of elevating the cost of these surgeries. Since consumers are already paying more for just about everything in 2022, it makes sense for your practice to evaluate the idea of raising prices. In 2021, the average cost of LASIK was around $2,246 per eye. The data from 2019 shows the cost of cataract surgery varied widely depending upon whether the patient had public or private insurance, ranging from $3,783 to $6,898 per eye study documented 1,107 vision-related surgical procedures performed in April 2019. One year later that number dropped to 117 during the same month.
Given the high cost of every other surgery in the United States, it’s important to note that LASIK and cataract surgeries fall at the bottom of both the elective and necessary procedures list. Are we undervaluing this work?
As part of this analysis, we recommend looking at your payer mix and market realities to determine if raising the costs of LASIK and cataract surgery is the right option for your practice.
That leaves us with three potential revenue-generating strategies, all of which tie directly into the efforts to market your practice to new and existing patients:
The first step in marketing to increase the number of patients purchasing any ophthalmologic surgery procedure is to determine the needs, wants, priorities, and behaviors of your patient population and the target market you’d like to attract.
The Annual Medical Marketing Outlook Survey analyzes data from millions of patient phone calls. While the survey is geared generally toward the healthcare space, ophthalmologists can extrapolate this important data and apply it to their practice. Here is a summary of the survey’s findings:
Based on this data, we believe an increase in your LASIK and cataract surgery procedures will correlate nicely with a marketing strategy to:
How can ophthalmology practices focus on these two critical areas to increase patient volumes?
Patient experience begins online. 91% of your patients conduct online research into their medical provider even after receiving a referral to that doctor from their primary care physician.
Here’s a statistic that may startle you: 84% of patients trust online reviews of your practice as much as they do a referral from a friend. Your online presence matters when attracting either new or existing patients to your premium surgical procedures.
Leveraging patient testimonials, particularly on video for your website can create a compelling case for an elective surgical procedure paid for out-of-pocket. It can also create a more trusting doctor/patient relationship with a worried cataract surgery patient even before they step foot in your practice.
Additionally, monitoring online sites that allow patients to rate your practice, while encouraging your happy customers to post their rating, is both a low-cost but highly effective way to differentiate your surgical and diagnostic practice. These efforts also correlate to more content on your website that ties to a higher SEO ranking. The practical effect of better SEO is that your practice website pulls up near the top of the list when a potential patient searches for “LASIK near me” or “best cataract surgeon.”
Improving the experience of your patient population has always been the number one critical component for your practice success, whether you’re trying to increase new patient referrals or promoting an elective surgery. In an era of online word-of-mouth, the effort to improve your customer’s satisfaction is even more important. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends four important steps for your consideration:
AVG is the nation’s leading eye care services platform. Based in Miami, Florida, we provide operational and administrative support to our partner practices. We partner with world-class doctors in top markets, providing both investment capital and managerial expertise.
Together, we deliver the best medical and surgical eye care available for better customer satisfaction and a stable bottom line. Contact us today for more information about the ways we can help you market your premium LASIK and cataract surgery services.