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Cover Focus Business Administration: What You Didn't Learn In Medical School | Sep 2015

Taking the Opportunity to Be Great

How does your practice reflect a patient-first attitude?

May 3, 2015, marked the 10 years of patient-shared billing (PSB) for the correction of presbyopia during cataract surgery. This milestone went by without much fanfare. When PSB was introduced, some surgeons saw this new law as an opportunity, and others saw it as a way to prey upon patients and increase their own incomes. In my experience, physicians’ outcomes with PSB are a reflection of their attitude. After all, as Henry Ford once quipped, “Whether you believe you can or cannot, either way you are right.”

I had the privilege of being part of a group of sales representatives that launched the first presbyopia-correcting IOL, the Crystalens from Eyeonics. We were fortunate to have some early successes. Mostly, though, people were more interested in the concept of presbyopic correction than in actually doing the work necessary, as then-Eyeonics CEO Andy Corley called it, “moving the furniture.”


We learned quickly that success with a retail component of a surgical procedure depended on the surgeon; those who did well with the implant believed in it and had confidence in the results it could produce. This belief was evident in how they spoke to staff and patients about the opportunity presented by the product. We coached surgeons to use the phrase, “In my opinion, the best option for you is the Crystalens.” If they believed that to be true, then acceptance in the practice skyrocketed. I remember visiting a surgeon to whom I offered that tip who told me he “went to medical school to become a doctor, not a salesman.” That statement helped me understand the mindset many surgeons have. I still encounter those who come across as the reluctant seller or who talk patients out of something they would happily pay for, because the surgeons are afraid of how they will be perceived.

Today’s patient is accustomed to paying for things in a disaggregated manner. It happens to me every time I visit my dentist, for example. Offers are presented without apology, and no one’s feelings are hurt if I decline. In my travels around the country with Sightpath Medical, I visit many practices and find it amazing how many offer a variation of the excuse that their area is different to explain why they have poor premium conversion rates.

No, it is not different. I have found too many exceptions to the rule. Whether they are in inner-city, rural, or suburban markets that are affluent or less than affluent, there are plenty of exceptions, both bad and good. Sometimes, I jump to the conclusion that there is no opportunity in an area only to hear that the practice converts to upgrades at a 45% rate. The opportunity is there, but the practice has to be willing to move the furniture


In my almost quarter-century in ophthalmology, I have yet to meet a surgeon who does not care about his or her patients. Using myriad methods, all practices claim they put patients first. Where things get interesting and a competitive advantage emerges is in how practices manifest that patient-first attitude in daily activities. There are five tenets of success that can help differentiate your practice and display that can-do attitude to which Henry Ford alluded.

Attitude Coupled With Staff Buy-in

An upgraded surgery program must begin with a meeting where the surgeons let everyone on the team know about their commitment to improvement and how important it is to the future health of the enterprise.

Understand and Know How to Communicate Your “Why”

Market data show fear as the biggest obstacle for patients to any surgical procedure. When surgeons and staff are aligned around a common belief, their actions help patients feel a sense of confidence and calm.

Regular Staff Training and Communication

Each person in the practice should develop and hone his or her ability to communicate the practice’s “why” coupled with a personal story he or she can share. This helps to build a connection with patients and gives the staff a “go-to” response.

Develop a Set of Metrics, and Measure the Success of Your Program

An old saying is, “What is measured gets improved.” Determine the metrics that will be interesting, define acceptable parameters of the metrics, set goals, track the outcomes, and then discuss and continually devise and adjust strategies to improve.

Have a Staff-Incentive Mindset

A significant part of staff buy-in is to offer your team incentives for their roles in helping to create an upgrade environment. A thoughtful program designed to motivate everyone is an effective tool for achieving established goals.

For any upgraded procedure program to succeed, the surgeon must believe and be involved with charting the course and making adjustments. Three common models that practices can use independent of geography but dependent on the attitude of both the surgeon and the staff are as follows.


No. 1. The Surgoen Does the Selling

This is for the surgeon who enjoys selling, educating, or influencing. This model often converts at a higher rate than any other. People trust doctors and when a recommendation is made, it is a rare person who believes they know better. To watch this in action is a thing of beauty.

No. 2. All-For-One and One-For-All

This is the patient experience model at work. Everyone in the practice knows the strategy, has their own version of a story, and is fully committed to the goals of the practice.

No. 3. The Closer

This model is the most commercial and features a person in the practice whose job it is to close the sale. For surgeons who “don’t like to sell,” this may feel like a good option. The downside is that one person is responsible for the success of the program.


Be mindful of how important it is to bring the people on your staff along with your decision process. Help them understand your “why” and invest in creating a model consistent with how you want your practice to function today and tomorrow. Remember, if you believe you can, then you will be right. n

Joel Gaslin
• vice president of sales and marketing, Sightpath Medical, Bloomington, Minnesota
• (952) 345-5511; (612) 802-9090; joel.gaslin@sightpathmedical.com; Twitter @JoelGaslin; www.facebook.com/joel.gaslin

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