Ophthalmology has dramatically changed over the past decade. Anterior segment surgeons now have access to numerous topographers, aberrometers, premium IOLs, femtosecond lasers, microinvasive glaucoma surgery devices, and more. Generally, the ability to gain exposure to new technology is more readily available to surgeons in training than to surgeons who have been out in practice for decades. Additionally, large institutions have financial avenues to purchase newer equipment with larger capital than the solo private practitioner. The problem is that technology continues to change well beyond training, and it can be difficult for practicing ophthalmologists to get acquainted with new technology and the ever-expanding patient load coming into their practices. Below are five tips that can help surgeons venture into the world of new technology.
Go to meetings and participate. The two major congresses held annually are the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meetings. Both hold a range of wet labs to help attendees gain access to new technology. They also have elite faculty dedicated to help with training and career development. In addition, there are many other meetings worth considering if you prefer a smaller atmosphere. Meetings such as Cataract Surgery: Telling It Like It Is, Kiawah Eye, MillennialEYE Live, Hawaiian Eye, and Caribbean Eye take place in a much more intimate setting and offer more one-on-one discussions with faculty.
Start slow. Take one new technology at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once (Rome wasn’t built in a day). If you are dabbling in laser cataract surgery, master the femtosecond laser first. If you don’t, you will certainly become discouraged if something goes wrong in the femto portion of a case and another issue arises in the OR with your new aberrometer. Conduct thorough research before starting to use a new technology, and take it one day at a time. Patience is key; without it, you risk becoming overwhelmed trying to learn too many new things without mastering a single one.
Train your staff. At Eye Centers of Tennessee, we host tech meetings at each of our office locations, held two mornings a month prior to work. These are times when we can talk to all technicians and scribes and ensure that everyone is on the same page as the physicians. Often, your staff will spend more time with the patient than you as the physician; therefore, it is imperative that your staff members know the new technology lingo and understand why you want to implement it. If you ever want to see a new technology launch fail in your practice, allow your staff to not be excited about it. Patients will only become excited when they see that your staff is excited too.
Run the financials. Do not always be the first practice to perform the newest surgery. Often, these new technologies come at a high price. If you can wait 1 to 2 years, the price points will drop dramatically. Every new technology should come with some measure of ability to recoup the funds needed to acquire it. If you want to use intraoperative wavefront aberrometry, you must find a way to charge for an intraoperative refraction. If you want to purchase a new topographer, you must make sure you have the patient throughput to finance the monthly payments. Keeping up with the Joneses will destroy your practice if a measure of frugality isn’t used.
Find the right patients. If you want to try the newest toric extended-depth-of-focus IOL, consider not picking the 15-year veteran pilot. Find patients who are willing to accept that the technology is new to you and who understand that you truly want to do everything you can to help them, which means using the best technology available. Be honest with patients: Do not tell them you have used a device many times when, in fact, it is your first time. With good informed consent, patients typically understand that new technologies help advance medical care for them and their families.
New technologies signal exciting times ahead in ophthalmology. Changes will continue to occur at an ever-increasing pace. Brace yourself. But, more importantly, equip yourself with the knowledge and skills you will need to continue to give your patients the best care they so need and deserve.