November 27, 2012
Therapeutic lasers’ popularity continues to grow as pet owners seek out alternative healing and pain control techniques for their animals, laser therapy manufacturers say.
Kristen Grady, director of sales for Grady Medical Systems of Temecula, Calif., said that while it’s difficult to estimate, about 10 percent of clinics practice with laser light therapy, in general.
And approximately 5,000 Class IV laser machines have been purchased in the veterinary market in just the last three years, said Phil Harrington, DC, CMLSO, manager of training and clinical support for K-Laser USA of Franklin, Tenn.
It’s interesting to note that although some specialty clinics and certain universities are investing in the modality, most clinics adding therapeutic laser therapy to their regimens are general practices.
“These clinics are seeing wounds, dermatology cases and animals experiencing osteoarthritic pain—all conditions the laser can greatly improve,” said Grady. “The use of the laser can also be tied in to post-operative healing. For these reasons, laser is definitely not just for specialty hospitals.”
Carl Bennett, marketing director for Companion Therapy Laser by Lite Cure based in Newark, Del., and James D. Shanks, veterinary director at Erchonia Corp. of McKinney, Texas, agree.
“The great thing about therapeutic laser technology is it allows you to increase your outcomes, provide alternative forms of therapy, allow more flexibly to your practice and increase patient referrals,” Shanks said.
“Any practices that see patients for whom they would like to speed healing, reduce pain or inflammation, or have a drug-free alternative for treating acute or chronic conditions” will benefit in patient care, Bennett said, as well as in return on investment for purchasing the equipment.
While practices of all sizes can benefit from offering laser therapy, Harrington said clinics that would most benefit are those performing surgeries that are either already offering post-operative rehabilitation or are considering adding rehab services.
Harrington agrees that laser light therapy equipment offers a healthy return on investment for most practitioners, which is important because the technology can cost from $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the particular equipment.
“It is common for the return to be a year or less, with some of the highly motivated practices paying off the equipment in just a few months,” Harrington said.
And at the recent Wild West Veterinary Conference in Reno, Nev., Bennett said he spoke with a practitioner who paid for her therapeutic laser in just 11 months.
Strategically pricing laser therapy treatments is one way to improve ROI. Fees vary according to where a practice is located as well as the demographics of the clientele, manufacturers said.
Making Sense of the Technology
“Class III versus Class IV” laser therapy is a buzz phrase in veterinary circles these days, and with what may seem like an overwhelming amount of opinion in the marketplace, therapy laser manufacturers recommend that veterinarians do their homework to choose the technology that fits their practice.
Phil Harrington of K-Laser USA of Franklin, Tenn., said to start with the basics and brush up on the scientific terminology associated with laser therapy—Joules, watts, nanometers, dosage, and so on. “Then learn some of the basic mechanisms and physiology of laser therapy.”
James D. Shanks of Erchonia Corp. agreed.
“Research the fundamental basics of laser science to understand the power and penetration versus absorption for long-term benefits.”
This will better help practitioners to perform their own calculations for dosage, size of area treated, energy needed and time required for a Class III versus a Class IV laser, Harrington said.
Jan Tuner and Lars Hode are two of the top minds in laser therapy, according to Bennett and Kristen Grady of Grady Medical Systems. They recommend reading their research.
“Some of their materials can be searched online, such as one of their short articles titled ‘Confounders and Magicians,’ which sheds light on some of the common marketing claims,” Grady said.
Other information sources are “The New Laser Therapy Handbook” and the World Association of Laser Therapy’s website at www.walt.nu.
However, in general, their recommendations for fee setting were similar.
“Short treatments, such as post-surgical or declaw, can be done in just a couple of minutes, so we are seeing fees of $10 to $30 for those,” Harrington said. “The orthopedic conditions such as arthritis or disc disease take a little longer, so $35 to $60 is common. And since laser therapy is a physical therapy modality, there are many conditions that benefit best from a series of treatments, so the practice would sell a package of visits.”
Grady said many clinics offer a 10 percent discount for a package of eight treatments.
Researching equipment can be difficult.
Bennett said that in general, more expensive units have two principal advantages: They can deliver an effective dose in less time, and they have software that computes the proper dose for a patient and its condition. Some but not all therapeutic laser companies offer refurbished units for clinics that may be pinching pennies.
But cost shouldn’t be the driving force of which therapeutic laser technology you purchase, said Erchonia’s Shanks.
“The most important factor should be the research and effectiveness of the laser device. There are many different types of laser, ranging from light emitting diodes, low-level lasers (visible) and high-powered (Class IV lasers, or heat-generated infrared lasers).”
He also noted that all laser manufacturers should have solid, independent research on their device to help support their claims.
Another important factor is the vendor’s dedication to your practice’s success.
“Look at education and training for staff, marketing materials both in the clinic and available online and service and support availability and quality—[is the company] in it for a quick buck or is it in it for the long haul?” Harrington said. “Is the company dedicated to ongoing research and development? Are they able to deliver software updates for their equipment to reflect the latest available knowledge from the field of laser therapy?”
Having confidence in a manufacturer’s staff support and training is key because most clinics use veterinary technicians to perform laser therapy treatments on patients, though Bennett noted that all therapeutic lasers “should be used under the direction and prescription of a veterinarian.”
“We encourage the entire support staff to learn about laser therapy technology and invite them to seminars,” Shanks said.
And while learning to understand the physics behind therapeutic laser treatments can be daunting, most agreed that learning to use the machines and administer therapy takes less than an hour.
Training includes instruction on staff and patient safety while the laser therapy is administered.
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