I would like to first welcome 2015 by thanking all of our readers and the entire CRST Europe staff. I wish you and your families a warm, joyful, and healthy New Year.
As in previous years, 2014 helped us to realize that the public does not take the decision to undergo refractive surgery lightly, and their perception of this group of elective procedures is still nebulous. The number of patients who elect LASIK and other refractive surgeries is down worldwide, and there are no signs that this will be any different in 2015.
Is it the economy? Is it bad publicity in the media? Partially, perhaps. But there are other factors as well. By paying attention to some of these factors, eye surgeons have the opportunity to play a significant role in helping grow the pie instead of trying to steal market share from one another.
The most important of these factors in our fight to increase refractive surgery numbers is public education, and this is one of the main goals of the Refractive Surgery Alliance (http://www.refractivealliance.com), an initiative driven by experts to inform the public of the safety of refractive surgery. But, in the meantime, we refractive surgeons are vulnerable. In Japan, for instance, the government published a report detailing the risks of LASIK. This killed the LASIK market in that country and caused the numbers to drop by as much as 50% in other Asian countries.
We can do amazing things for our patients’ eyesight. We have plenty of techniques available to improve the functionality and quality of vision of an eye. But one size does not fit all. We should listen carefully to our patients’ motivations and expectations before deciding what solution to propose. It does not make sense to offer the same procedure to all clients, as many laser surgery centers do. Clinics should offer all possible techniques under the same roof, and choices should not be driven by numbers but by quality standards.
I consider myself fortunate to live in a country where advertising is forbidden. Through publicity, unhealthy expectations can be created and prices unrealistically depressed. At the same time, there is risk that the general public will not be informed properly about the entire spectrum of eye-correcting procedures available. When comparing our strategy with those of plastic surgeons, I can only conclude they are dealing with patients in a smart way. Are they continually cutting prices? Most certainly not; on the contrary, they are raising them.
We are all on the same side, and we are all committed to our patients’ well being. Let us keep this in mind in the year 2015 and beyond.