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Today's Practice | May 2016

Taking the Opportunity to be Great

How does your practice reflect a patient-first attitude?

I had the privilege of being part of a group of sales representatives who launched the first accommodating IOL, the Crystalens from Eyeonics (now Bausch + Lomb), in the United States. We were fortunate to have some early successes. Mostly, though, people were more interested in the concept of presbyopic correction than in doing the work necessary (as then-Eyeonics CEO Andy Corley called it, “moving the furniture”).



• Success is a reflection of the surgeon’s attitude.

• Being mindful of how important it is to bring the people on your staff along with your decision process is one mark of a good leader.

We learned quickly that success with a retail component of a surgical procedure was a reflection of the surgeon’s attitude. (After all, as Henry Ford once quipped, “Whether you believe you can or cannot, either way you are right.”)

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 these 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 IOL 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.”

Five Tenets of Success

No. 1: Couple attitude with staff buy-in. An upgraded surgery program must begin with a meeting at which 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.

No. 2: Understand and know how to communicate your why. Market data show that fear is 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.

No. 3: Conduct 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.

No. 4: 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 for the metrics, set goals, track the outcomes, and then discuss and continually devise and adjust strategies to improve.

No. 5: 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.

common aspects of successful practices

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 (see the graphic on the following page).

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 surgeon 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 he or she knows 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 his or her 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. It features a person in the practice whose job it is to close the sale. For surgeons who say they “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.


Being mindful of how important it is to bring the people on your staff along with your decision process is one mark of a good leader. Help your staff 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.

Joel Gaslin
• Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Sightpath Medical, Bloomington, Minnesota