Whether you are building a solo practice or are a part of a larger one, acquiring the right technology is crucial to success. It can be tempting to bring in all of the latest and greatest innovations, but doing so without first thoroughly evaluating whether a technology actually advances your practice can have negative effects on practice flow and, of course, your bottom line. Before deciding to purchase a new technology, I like to assess the following factors to ensure that the investment will deliver the greatest benefit to my practice and my patients.
Depending on a practice’s focus, technology needs will be different. Fundus photography, OCT, and visual fields are essential functions for any practice. For refractive practices, however, corneal topography is also essential. Consider the focus of your practice and whether a device has a crucial role in that particular concentration.
The footprint of a device is a major consideration for all surgeons, as space is at a premium for most practices. Machines in the same class typically take up a similar amount of space. However, there are exceptions, so it is important to research these products and see how they fit your physical needs. For example, a key factor in my decision to purchase the WaveLight Refractive Suite (Alcon) was that it is the smallest of the major refractive laser systems. Other practices may not have space constraints, but this was an important consideration for me.
REPUTATION AND SERVICE
Another factor to consider is customer service and the reputation of the device manufacturer. Equipment is expensive, and it is imperative that companies stand behind their products with dependable service contracts, timely attention, and warranties. We must be able to rely on our industry partners for support that helps us get the most out of their technology with minimal disruptions.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, I often advise my colleagues not to get caught up in price above all else. You truly get what you pay for, not unlike with a car. A device with more bells and whistles may enable you to see more patients and achieve better results. Having technology that is multifunctional may enable you to replace two—or more—devices with one and improve practice flow. For example, the OPD-Scan III (Nidek), although more expensive than other devices in its category, is a topographer and an autorefractor platform that performs other functions. It is also worth noting that, the price is not always the price, and physicians can consider forming buying groups to negotiate discounted pricing.
PRACTICE AND PATIENT BENEFITS
Consider whether the equipment will help you provide a higher standard of care. I decided to add an Nd:YAG laser in my practice after a case in which a patient needed an iridotomy emergently, but I was unable to schedule her quickly at my surgery center. I ended up selecting a wheelchair-friendly Nd:YAG/SLT combination device. Now, when necessary, patients can undergo these procedures in my office, streamlining the process and making it easier. Offering technology like this can benefit both your patients and your practice’s reputation.
Another technology that that has enhanced my patient care and practice efficiency is the optomap ultra-widefield imaging device (Optos). I decided to acquire this device because peripheral pathology is often difficult to see and generally impossible to document with a traditional fundus camera. I previously used a fundus camera, which required several separate flash photos to make a montage photo. In less than a second, the optomap shows me more than 80% of the retina in a single capture, with less discomfort to the patient.
When making a purchasing decision for an ophthalmology practice, one must first assess the level and type of care provided. Whether flying solo or trying to persuade other stakeholders, cost is only one consideration. Devices that are multifunctional or more efficient can play a major role in streamlining patient flow, providing a higher level of care, improving the patient experience, and, ultimately, helping to build your practice.
Take the time to do your homework, whether that means speaking with colleagues about their experiences, meeting with industry representatives, or evaluating equipment at events like the AAO and ASCRS annual meetings. With space—and time—at a premium for eye care practices, the right technology can make all the difference.