Ophthalmology Business

SEPT 2013

Ophthalmology Business is focused on business topics relevant to the entrepreneurial ophthalmologist. It offers editorial, opinion, and practical tips for physicians running an ophthalmic practice. It is a companion publication of EyeWorld.

Issue link: http://digital.ophthalmologybusiness.org/i/174774

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Page 20 of 26

by Ophthalmology Business Staff Writer How patients can become effective ambassadors for your practice V isual outcomes beyond 20/20 in LASIK surgery can affect the likelihood a patient will refer a family member or friend to your practice, according to a study by Steve Schallhorn, MD, global medical director, Optical Express, Glasgow, U.K., and colleagues that looked at a large dataset from the Optical Express Ambassador Referral Program, which was launched in 2010. Through the referral program, patients have the opportunity to refer a family member or friend, Dr. Schallhorn said. The program allowed Dr. Schallhorn and colleagues to track patients who referred another patient. "We looked at the characteristics of those patients who referred another patient, but only analyzed those referrals that resulted in a procedure being performed in the referred patient," he said. In other words, a patient could refer a friend but that friend might have keratoconus and not be a good candidate or elects not to undergo surgery for whatever reason. "Typically, this would be considered a referral, but it's not the way we defined a referral in this analysis," Dr. Schallhorn said. He and colleagues compared the demographics, pre-treatment, and post-treatment characteristics of patients who were ambassadors— they referred another patient and that patient got treated—with those of patients who did not make any referrals. Dr. Schallhorn found that there was a higher likelihood of patients referring another patient if they had certain characteristics; one of those characteristics is better uncorrected vision. If they achieved 20/20 uncorrected visual acuity, they were more likely to refer than those who did not attain 20/20, he said. "What's interesting is that they were even more likely to refer if they achieve 20/16 uncorrected vision, meaning that achieving the best uncorrected vision possible helps drive referrals," Dr. Schallhorn said. "In hindsight this seems obvious and should not have been unexpected—that the better the uncorrected vision, the more likely patients would refer. But prior to this, we could never apply evidence-based methods to analyze the science of patient referrals because it requires a huge, accurate, and meticulous dataset. Now with the Optical Express data we can do the analysis," he said. Dr. Schallhorn looked at one year's worth of ambassadors, and the data set was enormous. They had about 18,000 patients who referred another patient and compared those 18,000 to tens of thousands that did not make any referral. continued on page 22 September 2013 • Ophthalmology Business eZine 21

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