Q & A with Bill Mercier, President of OptiCall and Dylan Kemna, VP

Refractive lens exchange (RLE) is a relatively new procedure that\’s made a huge impact in the industry. RLE is for patients who want a permanent solution to avoiding cataracts but aren\’t good candidates for LASIK. It\’s becoming a popular alternative to laser-based procedures which serve as a temporary solution to getting cataracts in the future.

RLE has presented a significant opportunity for practices. But with any new technology, practices and their staff need to adjust how they manage prospective patients. OptiCall’s Bill Mercier and Dylan Kemna discuss how elective medical practices can take advantage of this growing trend and help convert more prospects into patients.

Dylan: Bill, why don\’t you share a little background on how the industry has been impacted by Refractive Lens Exchange?

Bill: Well, laser-based procedures to remove cataracts used to be very popular many years ago. But recently, demand has flattened or even decreased for some practices.  Now pre-cataract lens exchange or clear lens exchange has taken over, and baby boomers are particularly interested in this type of procedure as a permanent or long-term solution to cataracts. Refractive lens exchange or clear lens exchange wins over refractive surgery options, especially over a certain age.

The demographics have also changed where now these patients are getting younger and younger. It used to be someone around age 60 would consider a laser-based procedure. But now, a 39-year-old might be thinking what their options are.

All of this is creating a significant opportunity for practices to upsell or upgrade those consultations into premium lens procedures. However, comparable to the early stages of LASIK where the problem is out there, the social awareness and education on RLE isn\’t.

Dylan: That\’s a good point. We\’ve heard, when it comes to actually getting prospects in the door for a consultation, it\’s a struggle.

Bill: Yes, the bottleneck is training. It\’s hard to develop training programs and get staff up to speed in the way they need to be in order to make the sale. Most practices focus on basic medical training, procedure training, etc. But to really convert more prospects to patients, especially on a newer procedure, you have to have staff that is well trained on the patient thought process and questions they may have.

Dylan: What are common objections or questions that can be stumbling blocks?

Bill: First, patients are often just overwhelmed with too much information. LASIK, lasers, custom lasers, laser flat makers – all this technology and terminology continues to evolve, and it can confuse the patient. Having the proper scripting and controlling the flow of the phone call based on what somebody asks can help explore their needs and the proper education. The patient doesn\’t have to know what procedure they need but sometimes they feel like they do. That’s why it\’s so important that expert patient counselors take the technical burden off the patient by focusing on their fundamental needs and pain points.

Dylan: That\’s what I love about our team. Our partnership with the RLE vendors means our staff gets expert-level training to be able to explore that option, and compare it to other options specific to that practice.

Bill: Right. And that\’s also the point, is to help the patient understand there are new options and existing options, and book the right appointment for them. But really, it\’s selling the consultation with a physician who will ultimately help them make a decision. We often hear from practices that\’s where they can the demand in there, but the inability of their staff to manage a technical conversation, can result in missed opportunities.

Dylan: Yes so event though it’s new technology or a new trend, we still apply our logical progression process – proper introduction, exploration with key questions, education, and closing – and we really start to see the friction removed and new patients flowing through the door.

Bill: Absolutely. I\’ll add we also see a lot more virtual consultations used for potential Refractive Lens Exchange patients.  Refractive lens exchanges can be twice the cost of Lasik, so it\’s really important to try to get the price discussion out of the way. Virtual consultations have helped vet patients ahead of time and also give them a heads up on pricing. Full eye exams have also helped ensure the patient is getting the right procedure.

Dylan: I do think it is very important to explore what the patient needs are. I\’ve heard people call in and they\’re interested in LASIK or laser-based procedure and then as the staff talks to them about the different procedures and learns that they\’re over a certain age, they steer them towards a refractive lens exchange on the phone.

Bill: And the problem with that is that somebody didn’t call in even knowing what that was. They called in thinking they want to want LASIK, but their phone counselor is really focused on understanding their needs and pain points to be able to get to the right options for them. That type of consultative approach makes the patient feel like they\’ve called the right place, builds rapport, and makes practice seem credible.

Dylan: Where do you see the future heading with Cataract Marketing?

Bill: I expect practices will put more and more money into Premium lens marketing and refractive lens exchange marketing.  Laser-based procedures for the younger patients will always be there, but it seems to be declining among older patients while Premium lens patients seem to be growing for that demographic.

Dylan: What advice would you give to practices?

Bill: They need to set themselves up to win right from the beginning, everywhere from the entire patient experience.
If they\’re looking at upselling a premium lens to a patient, that experience has to be superb from when they call and they get somebody on the phone to the moment that they walk into the office and the moment they meet with the coordinators and doctors. It has to be a stellar experience.

Dylan: If there\’s a kink somewhere in the works, then it can derail a, a patient from coming in there. I was chatting with a practice where they’re just rolling out some TV commercials. I shared the stat we have -94% of marketing budgets are focused on lead generation. Less than 6% is spent on lead conversion. There\’s no perfect answer, but it\’s, it\’s really important that you\’re, you\’ve got good systems in place to make sure that those leads are handled and that they’re handled well.