Insights From Our Editors

Do Refractive Surgery/LASIK Patients Still Need Vision Correction?

You have an opportunity to provide ongoing vision care and products to post-refractive surgery patients, according to findings from The Vision Council’s 2013 Eyewear Habits of Refractive Surgery/LASIK patients. In 2013, just under half of all refractive surgery / LASIK patients (6.5 million people) currently use some form of vision correction (vs. 76 percent of the total adult population in the US). Patients who recently had surgery were less likely to use some form of vision correction when compared to those who had their surgery procedure more than five years ago.

As you might expect, the number of “squinters” who have had refractive surgery /LASIK is significantly lower than the number of “squinters” in the total adult population. A squinter is a person who does not use any form of vision correction even though they readily admit that they have a vision problem that impairs their sight. Approximately 530,000 refractive surgery / LASIK patients have some type of vision problem and do nothing to correct it.

Most of these patients had their surgery more than five years ago and most are over the age of 55. Even though significant differences exist between the general population and the folks who have had a surgery procedure with regard to the presence of uncorrected vision problems, the two groups are very similar in terms of why they do not seek to correct their problems. Both groups claim that either they just “haven’t gotten around to fixing their vision problem yet” or that “their eyesight isn’t bad enough yet” to warrant a trip to the eye doctor.

The answer to the findings of the Vision Council’s 2013 Eyewear Habits of Refractive Surgery/LASIK patients of why post refractive surgery patients avoid eyecare is to educate patients so they can shift from a pathological mindset to a preventive mindset. When patients avoid eyecare because they “haven’t gotten around to fixing their vision problem yet” or that “their eyesight isn’t bad enough yet” to warrant a trip to the eye doctor, they are stuck in the pathological eyecare mindset.

The pathological mindset leads people to only act when the problem is of significant size to warrant action. When the problem gets big enough people seek care. In the meantime, people choose to tolerate the problem. The major issue with this mindset is that it leads to delayed care. Delayed care leads to a decreased quality of life.

The preventative mindset helps patients function at their highest quality of life. Rather than tolerate problems, the preventative approach helps avoid problems. Most patients are stuck in the pathological mindset and can only be moved to the preventative mindset through education.

Education must begin before the patient has refractive surgery. Here are three steps to follow to help your patients make this mindset change.

Step 1: Educate each refractive surgery patient about the exam visits needed pre- and post-surgery over the course of a year. Pre-appoint them for the visits.

Step 2: Educate refractive surgery patients why each visit is necessary and how it impacts quality of life.

Step 3: Educate refractive surgery patients how their vision will change over time after the surgery, then create a written plan for annual visits with an explanation of why each visit is necessary. Get the patient to agree to the plan.

Since patients think that once the surgery occurs their vision will be perfect and no additional care is necessary, these three steps must be taken before surgery when patient interest is highest. Managing expectations is a significant part of refractive surgery patient care. By educating patients before surgery about quality of life and about how the eyes will change both because of the surgery and because of aging, you can change the way they think about care and, therefore, get agreement for ongoing care.

Your assignment for this week is to review your refractive surgery pre-op education and add the three steps listed above.

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