By now it should be understood that LASIK is not a product like a computer,
plasma TV, or MP-3 player. LASIK is a medical procedure that is more akin to
a service. Unlike the products mentioned, LASIK fees increase over time, not
decrease. In providing a service in the form of a surgical procedure, there
are a host of factors that play a role in the fee for the procedure.
Generally, LASIK fees can be categorized as premium, middle, and low. As a
general rule, the lower the fee, the less surgeon-patient interaction there
is. The reason is that lower fees mean that more patients need to be treated
in order to generate the same level of income as fewer patients at a higher
fee. At the lower fee range, it is common that the patient will sign up for
surgery without meeting the surgeon – patients typically meet the surgeon
just prior to the surgery itself. It’s the equivalent of going in for
elective gallbladder surgery, but never meeting your surgeon until “you’re
on the table”. This is not common practice in other areas of medicine.
There are other factors that can account for differences in fees even if you
meet the surgeon at every visit before and after surgery. The more experience
of the surgeon, typically the higher the fee. In other words, the greater the
expertise, the higher the fee. As with any profession, some surgeons are more
skilled than others which includes not only surgical expertise, but also diagnostic
expertise as well since LASIK is not always the best procedure for everyone.
Some patients may be better suited for other procedures and some patients should
not have surgery at all. An expert surgeon will be able to tell you this critical
information. Should a problem arise with or after surgery, an expert surgeon
is likely able to manage it. All of these factors tend to culminate into the
reputation of the surgeon. An Internet seach of the surgeon’s last name
may show you information or accomplishments about the surgeon.
The quality of the staff is another factor with LASIK fees. Just like highly-qualified
surgeons, expert surgical staff and clinical technicians along with other staff
necessitate higher salaries. Surgeons who employ less experienced staff have
in turn lower staff salaries. Surgical technicians assist the surgeon in sugery
and clean, sterilize, prepare, and maintain all equipment in surgery room as
well as maintain the room itself. Clinical technicians perform similar functions
as part of the preoperative and postoperative examinations. As you can see,
the staff have a very important role in the LASIK procedure.
The equipment is another cost factor. The top-end lasers used for LASIK can
cost upwards of $400,000 to $500,000. A 6-10 year old model can easily be obtained
for $50,000. A facility with the top-end laser needs to cover the not only the
laser cost, but other equipment needed for the procedure, all of which have
different grades of quality unto themselves: flapmaker, surgical room (air filtration
system or not? humidity-controlled room or not?), diagnostic equipment, other
surgical equipment, etc.
With this understanding of why LASIK fees vary, if you hear a lower
LASIK fee, you should ask yourself, “What is being left out of the process
A very popular option for those who desire premium LASIK, but think it may
not be within reach is to use outside patient financing. Most offices can provide
you with patient financing for LASIK which has become very popular among patients
nowadays since monthly payments are typically $100-$200 a month. Payments start
after the procedure is performed. This option has made premium LASIK affordable
to many patients.