Reasons of low LASIK volumes in India
Laser vision surgery was first introduced in India in around 1991, before which some refractive surgery pioneers had already conducted refractive surgery practices. But these practices mainly focused on Radial Keratotomy, the uncertainty of which was later removed by laser correction surgery. In 1995, LASIK was first introduced into India by Dr. Burjor. However, the cost of LASIK procedure limited the average surgeons’ access to this laser refractive surgery.
A volume gap between cataract surgeries and laser eye surgeries
In 2008, there were only about 250 active laser clinics in the country and less than 200,000 laser refractive surgeries were conducted year round. In contrast, the number of cataract surgeries reached 5 million per year in India. This contrast between cataract surgeries and laser correction procedures is unreasonable, which also indicates a great opportunity.
Demographic evidence is not enough
According to both demographic and epidemiological evidences, there will be a great increase in LASIK volumes. Refractive surgery possesses a significantly larger target group, which contains people aging between 18 and 60. In contrast, those who are eligible for cataract surgery typically age over 60. With this obvious knowledge, many experts predict that LASIK volumes should be much higher than cataract surgery volumes. However, evidence shows that demography can not explain the current gap between the two figures.
Cataract surgeries cost Indians only a little
Some others suggest cost gap as an explanation. In India, most cataract surgeries are performed in charitable or governmental setups, in which situation the majority of patients hardly pay the cost. In addition, there are still a large number of cataract surgeries that are covered by reimbursement or insurance plans. Unfortunately, all these plans or governmental benefits never touch vision correction surgery. Patients receiving laser surgeries must pay a high price.
Modern eyewear products reduce the need for an eye surgery
On the other hand, a purely cost-based explanation is also not so evident. In the current thriving optical industry, many people are attracted by nice glasses, frames and contact lenses with high prices. This phenomenon may be explained by the numerous optical shops at street corners. Customers can pick up a pair of eyewear quite easily when they are wandering around the streets.
Silly myths in India dissuade some patients
There are traditionally some silly myths about refractive surgery. For example, some people think the surgery is only good for unmarried girl, while some others consider that presbyopic and hyperopic patients should be excluded. Over the years, some of these myths have prevented many patients from receiving refractive surgery and also discouraged referrals to laser centers from eye surgeons. In addition, there is also clear evidence that accessibility also plays an important role in patients’ selection of refractive surgery.
The public and the ophthalmic community still have safety concerns
According to other professionals in the industry, the main reason for low LASIK volumes comes from patients’ concerns about the surgery’s safety and efficacy. In fact, the number of eye surgeons suffering from refractive errors is still on the increase in India, which to some extent indicates the ophthalmic community’s uncertainty about the safety and efficacy of laser vision correction. Actually the FDA has published the latest data of laser surgeries that are very safe and effective. In addition, new technologies such as blade free laser flap creation, Pentacam and the AC OCT can further improve the safety and efficacy of LASIK as well as its predictability.
More effort is needed to promote laser eye surgery
The augment of LASIK volumes in the future highly depends on the efforts from both people running laser centers and the broader ophthalmic community. Those LASIK centers should expand their investment to introduce the best technology as well as improve regular services. In some cases, they should also lower the cost of LASIK surgery in order to attract more patients. At the side of the broader ophthalmic community, it is necessary to learn more about the latest advances in laser surgery technology and properly guide those patients who are confused.
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