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January 11, 2010

5 Reasons Not to Get LASIK at a Corporate LASIK Center


Corporate LASIK Centers have long touted themselves as the largest providers of LASIK in the US.  I have previously blogged about why I think it is important have your LASIK at a local LASIK provider that provides diversified eye care services.

Here are my top 5 reasons NOT to go to a corporate LASIK Center:

  1. Here today, gone tomorrow.  Corporate LASIK centers are large companies.  They are subject to all the external pressures facing corporate America today.  If our banks and auto industry have difficulty in an economic downturn, imagine the problems corporate LASIK centers face with diminishing consumer spending.  A case in point:  TLC, at one time a darling on Wall Street and one of the largest corporate providers, filed for bankruptcy in December.
  2. One trick ponies.  Most corporate LASIK centers specialize in LASIK only.  Many times a different procedure, such as ICL or Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE), may provide a superior outcome.  If the corporate center does not do these procedures, they are not offered.  By going to a diversified eye care practice, the correct procedure is paired with a patient's needs.
  3. Revolving doors.  The LASIK surgeon at a corporate center is generally an employee.  The turnover at these centers is very high.  One of the centers in my area is on their third surgeon in 5 years.  I know continuity of care is important for my patients.  I still see LASIK patients that I originally treated in 1996, 14 years ago!
  4. Commoditization.  Corporate LASIK centers would like you to believe that LASIK is a commodity.  They would like you to believe that LASIK surgery can be done by anyone, and the most important decision a patient can make is to find the best price.  I beg to differ!  Surgical experience and expertise go a long way in achieving superior outcomes.  I always tell patients to shop results, not price.  It is often difficult for a patient to shop outcomes.  The best way to do so is to do your homework.  Ask around and find that practice that has people raving about how well they see, how easy the procedure was, and how well they are treated every time they are seen.  This is who should be doing your LASIK!
  5. Lifetime Guarantee?  A great selling point that corporate centers give is the Lifetime Guarantee.  These Lifetime guarantees come with many strings attached.  The Laser Eye Center of Carolina recently blogged about many of these strings:
  • The lifetime guarantee only applies to patients within certain parameters. They typically are not available for farsightedness, or for patients with more significant amounts of nearsightedness or astigmatism. The lifetime guarantee only applies if you get an excellent outcome on your initial LASIK procedure.
  • The guarantee is void if you need an enhancement or “touch-up” procedure. 
  • The guarantee only applies if your vision changes to significantly more nearsightedness (worse than 20/40). What if you drift to 20/30 or become farsighted as you age? Sorry, you’re on your own.The guarantee allows only for additional LASIK procedures. Of course, there is a limit to the number of times a LASIK procedure can be performed and the guarantee does not apply to procedures such as conductive keratoplasty which may be a better option for you as you age. 
  • The center determines the advisability of further LASIK. This does not allow for the participation of the patient in the decision making. The “lifetime” referred to may be the lifetime of the center. With the current economic downturn, most LASIK-only centers are operating in the red. One large center in Charlotte, NC recently closed its doors. We have seen several patients who were patients of now defunct laser centers who found that their lifetime guarantees were worthless.
  • You may be required to undergo yearly exams at an affiliated doctor’s office. Miss one of these mandated exams and your guarantee becomes void. But what difference does it make how often you go in for an exam or where you go? The truth is, unless you have diabetes, glaucoma or some other eye condition, eye exams every two to three years may be sufficient according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Such restrictions are an unnecessary burden and expense making it difficult and in some cases, impossible for a patient to meet their obligation under this arrangement.


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