Many young ophthalmologists start their careers by joining an existing practice. Most often, these practices are led by more senior physicians—many times by doctors who are at the tail end of their careers and reluctant to take on new debt. While this situation gives young doctors a great opportunity to buy into a practice or get their feet wet with regard to day-to-day life in an office, it can be hard to gauge how much you can rock the boat by introducing new technologies or service offerings. When the technology you’re interested in comes with a high price tag, the idea may seem like a nonstarter.
Femtosecond laser cataract surgery is a great example. If you’re interested in gaining experience with this technology or adding it to your practice offering, it may be a tough sell to senior partners. Not only does this technology require a substantial capital outlay and ongoing maintenance costs, you also have to tackle issues like hiring and training staff to assist with the case day. For a seasoned practice, it can be a challenge to build and maintain the procedure volume to justify this investment; for a new ophthalmologist building his or her caseload, it is almost impossible.
Fortunately, purchasing a laser is not the only option. For many years, I have worked with Sightpath Medical, a mobile ophthalmic surgical equipment provider. This relationship has enabled me to offer advanced-technology cataract surgery in rural satellite locations of my practice and also, more recently, to offer cataract surgery with the Alcon LenSx femtosecond laser. With this mobile service, a manufacturer-certified engineer employed by Sightpath Medical brings the laser into my practice on surgery days, and we pay for the service on a per-case basis. My practice does not have to worry about capital outlay for the equipment, training staff members, or maintaining the machines—all of this is taken care of by our mobile provider. Additionally, we have the benefit of working with a team who is in surgery performing these procedures all day, every day. This was very valuable to me when I first started performing the procedure, and the ongoing clinical support continues to be helpful.
While I have been in private practice since 1991 and am in a different stage of my career than the aforementioned group, I too experienced some hesitation from my partner about getting involved with laser cataract surgery. By using a mobile service to introduce laser cataract surgery into our practice, we were able to develop that aspect of the practice more smoothly, and he has since become a strong supporter of the technology. I believe that sharing my experience with a mobile service may be helpful to younger doctors facing the same challenge.
Although femtosecond laser technology for cataract surgery is perhaps the best example, using a mobile provider can be a viable solution for young ophthalmologists who are looking to use other advanced technologies but are perhaps not ready or able to invest in a specific technology. Sightpath also offers operating microscopes, phacoemulsification systems, YAG lasers, refractive equipment, and selective laser trabeculoplasty lasers, all of which are maintained by the company, accompanied by trained technicians and engineers, and moved via a patented transport system. Using a mobile service may help you get started and stay ahead of the technology curve.
It takes drive and creative thinking to build your own practice, but it doesn’t always have to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and maintenance costs. Utilizing a mobile equipment provider can be an economic, conservative way for young doctors to be cutting edge and provide their community with the most advanced technology without causing stress to their senior partners.