How to beat the most common objection: pricing, part 2

October 1, 2006
Nancy Groves

Editor's Note: Part 1 of this two-part feature (see Ophthalmology Times, Sept. 15, 2006) presented a customer-focused approach for persuading patients to undergo LASIK or a premium cataract procedure. At the heart of this method is training staff to concentrate on identifying patients' needs and how to meet their expectations, rather than jumping to the cost or postsurgical outcomes.

Editor's Note: Part 1 of this two-part feature (see Ophthalmology Times, Sept. 15, 2006) presented a customer-focused approach for persuading patients to undergo LASIK or a premium cataract procedure. At the heart of this method is training staff to concentrate on identifying patients' needs and how to meet their expectations, rather than jumping to the cost or postsurgical outcomes.

The conclusion, which follows, centers on finding a way to present high-end elective refractive surgery as affordable for each and every patient.

There's no escaping the fact that elective refractive surgery procedures such as LASIK and cataract surgery with presbyopic lens implant are expensive and that the cost, as well as trepidation about eye surgery, deters some patients.

Many people consider LASIK but have not had it done, Lo said. The two main reasons for their hesitation are fear and cost. With regard to the latter, affordability is more a matter of setting priorities and appreciating the value of the procedure than lacking the money. The typical LASIK patient has a household income of $75,000 to $100,000, so the question is whether they would rather spend disposable income on a pricey consumer item such as a big-screen television or on eye surgery.

Don't drop your price

With only an estimated 4% of the people who would be eligible for LASIK having had the procedure, clearly many are not convinced that LASIK is a good investment.

"Whoever can get a share of their minds will get a share of their disposable income," Lo said.

The average income of a LASIK surgery patient who applies for credit through CareCredit is $81,980, while the figure for patients with a premium IOL implanted is $68,000. The patients seeking premium IOL implantation have a higher rate of home ownership and a substantially higher average credit score.

These figures suggest that both groups could afford a refractive procedure, but if they're typical American consumers, they also have high credit card debt and a low savings rate. So, once they've opted to proceed with surgery, deciding how to pay for it could become an issue, Lo said.

She strongly advised refractive surgeons to avoid the temptation to fudge on their prices in the name of being competitive and luring more patients to their practice, even if some surgeons or surgery centers in their community are offering the same services at significantly lower rates.

"Our recommendation to doctors is don't discount, because if you discount, people still have that price-quality perception. When you discount, you're discounting your quality," Lo said.

A better alternative is to offer financing plans. Typically, the cost of a payment plan is about 5% to 10% of the price of the procedure, but that amount is paid by the patient. Rather than losing money by discounting fees, the practice can maintain its rates while enabling more customers to afford the procedure, Lo explained.

CareCredit offers a range of financing plans, such as no-interest plans with 3-month to 24-month payment periods, or more extended plans with smaller payments spread out over periods up to 60 months.

CareCredit works with practices in many medical specialties to train patient counselors on customer service skills and ways of presenting financial options to prospective clients.

"We always ask them to couple financing with price so that when you say the price is $4,000, you always add that it can be paid in monthly payments as low as $50," Lo said. "That enables them to digest better the sticker shock of hearing $4,000."

Related Content:

News