Recently, our practice decided to begin offering laser cataract surgery to our patients. Before introducing this service, though, we recognized that it would be important to get our whole team on board with the new platform and ensure that everyone understood what we were doing and why. There are many components to successfully launching a new service in your practice, many of which are not taught in medical school. During training, we were all taught surgical techniques but were not educated about the business end of running a practice; instead, we have had to learn these things along the way through trial and error.
Now that we have more than 2 years’ experience under our belt, I can identify several steps we took up front that helped us implement this technology as well as a few things we could have done to help us even more. Below are the top five criteria to consider when launching a new service offering in your practice.
The first barrier you will have to overcome is the physicians within your practice environment. Some may have a negative bias toward new technology. Some may think cost is an issue and wonder how much better the technology really is, some may think the increases in OR time will set them back, and others will simply be comfortable with how they have been performing procedures up to this point. In order to get all team members on the same page, I recommend visiting a surgeon who has experience with the procedure or service you are considering adopting. If possible, shadow the surgeon when he or she is evaluating patients, working with staff in the OR, and seeing patients postoperatively. Usually after watching a surgeon in the OR, any perception of the increased time that is required will dissipate.
Getting all practice staff on board is a key part of helping make the transition. We have more than 60 staff members and doctors, so we scheduled time for all of them to see the laser firsthand. This generated significant enthusiasm for the technology and continues to be helpful when patients ask the staff questions about the technology. Surgery schedulers and techs went to the ORs first, followed by the remainder of the staff over a 2- to 4-week period. In many cases, the doctors in your practice will understand the procedure and its benefits, but it is up to us to communicate those benefits effectively to the staff. Such understanding will help the staff feel comfortable promoting a premium upgrade, such as with laser cataract surgery.
Once all staff members are on board with the new technology offering, it is important to ensure that they all speak about the procedure in a consistent manner. Providing a list of key phrases and expectations for use, identifying the way your practice will refer to the procedure, and offering concise patient education materials will go a long way toward creating a unified message. Although it isn’t everyone’s job to know all the details about the procedure, empowering your staff with ways to answer some basic questions can be helpful. Using consistent messaging will help eliminate confusion for your patients and make it seem like your team is on the same page. Patient education materials for any premium service should have a premium look and may require an initial investment, but this will likely reward your practice with higher patient conversion and satisfaction rates.
When it comes to talking treatment options with patients, having a discussion that is clear and easy to understand is key. Our menu gives patients just four choices to pick from. The first three options are laser cataract surgery packages with multifocal, toric, and monofocal lens choices. The fourth option is standard cataract surgery with a monofocal lens. The surgeon should be open and willing to discuss these options and their associated costs with every patient. Be sure to provide your patients ample time to review each package with you and your staff and to ask questions; it is important to afford each patient time to consider what you are offering and discuss how each of the different options will affect his or her lifestyle and desired outcomes.
Billing and collections are an important aspect as well. Patients may need financing opportunities to select a high-tech option. Services such as CareCredit or Alpheon Credit can help make the procedures affordable for patients and may increase your conversion rates. When possible, avoid making presumptions about a patient’s ability to pay for a premium service and give every patient an equal opportunity to choose the type of procedure he or she desires.
There are many things to think about when implementing a new technology into your practice’s offerings. Carefully considering each of these aspects prior to launch benefitted our practice and can do the same for yours. Although these suggestions are based on my recent experience adding laser cataract surgery, they could easily apply to any premium or elective service.