LASIK isn’t as straight-forward as it may seem. There are several practices out there that offer all sorts of deals. The bottom line is that you don’t want to bargain with your vision. Furthermore, $299 an eye usually turns into much more. Most of these offers are for a very small population of patients, and it’s NEVER for laser-based surgery. It’s a bait-and-switch technique of marketing that gets our bargain driven society in the door. And once you’re there, supposing you’re a candidate for LASIK surgery (with a blade), the sales associates will push for an up-sale to IntraLase (laser) surgery, hereafter “iLASIK,” because of the extreme amount of complications associated with using a blade on the eye. Remember the discussion of “halos” from the 90’s? You get what you pay for.
In reality, you’re not likely to get iLASIK anywhere for cheap. It’s going to run anywhere from $3500 to $5500. The money you spend directly relates to the expertise and individual attention you will receive from your Ophthalmologist. With lower-end pricing, it’s very possible that you’ll be receiving your operation from someone very inexperienced. There are some places that will offer iLASIK with an experienced surgeon in the mid-range pricing, but much of the time you probably won’t get to meet that person for more than a few minutes right before the procedure. Before that point, you’re likely to talk to at least one Sales Coordinator, one Surgical Coordinator, and one Optometrist – none of whom are likely to have anything to do with your procedure. It’s scary to entrust the only two eyes you have to such a changing cast of characters. In many of these cases, it’s also very hard to get someone on the phone if you’re running into any difficulties after the procedure (or just have a simple question), and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to talk to the doctor that worked on your eyes.
It’s really not that much more of an investment to go ahead and spend the money to put yourself in the right hands. We do our best to cater to our patients’ pocketbooks; however, it is important to keep in mind that with a half-million dollar machine, the price point is going to be high. We have the most up-to-date technology, and you meet with the two people who are going to see you through treatment from beginning to end. I have been performing LASIK since its inception and am well versed in all of the latest technology and techniques. Christine is a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant, who has been in the field for the last fifteen years. We both see patients along every step of the way.
We offer CustomVue with all laser eye surgeries. That means that every procedure is customized to use your own eye scan to correct your prescription and address your unique imperfections. Some other practices will offer this service for an add-on fee; however, laser eye surgery is not one-size-fits-all, and we would never bargain with your vision. We also give the same attention to PRK patients who are not candidates for iLASIK (if their corneas are too thin). There is a much longer recovery period for PRK, and you deserve to have your doctor available at every step along the way.
We also give a full examination at your first complimentary consultation. It’s important for someone to be a very good candidate. That’s our main concern. We want to have happy patients. A good candidate is someone that has good corneal thickness, good surface maps of the eye, no real dryness, and is correctable to 20/20 in both eyes. All of this is determined on the first day at Chelsea Eye.
Some other practices do not perform a full evaluation the first day, so patients may not find out until their second or third visit if they are good candidates for LASIK. By then, they’ve likely already paid money down on a procedure that they may never get back. Additionally, they may need a different procedure such as Visian ICL, in which a lens is implanted into the eye to correct vision. That’s a much higher price point. What’s worse is that sometimes patients are never told if they’re not good candidates for LASIK. Some people are not correctable to 20/20 in both eyes. There may be a problem with their eye health that gets in the way. Too frequently, we hear stories that someone didn’t know that they’d only be able to get to 20/30 in one eye.
It’s important for us to be up front and to set realistic expectations with our patients. I should also note that there has been some recent talk about a new approach called “SMILE LASIK,” especially in Europe, but it’s not yet been sufficiently tested and is not FDA Approved. We would never gamble with a patient’s vision. We only perform the best procedures and only do our best work. LASIK is still the best investment you can make in yourself – as long as you choose wisely.
- Christopher Coad, MD, FACS, Surgical Director of Eye Care at Chelsea Eye