10 Things You Must Know Before Choosing Your Glaucoma Surgeon [Slideshare]

Mar 28, 2011

Hello. I’m Dr. David Richardson. As an eye surgeon I’ve performed thousands of glaucoma surgeries. I recognize that each one of my patients specifically chose me to perform their glaucoma surgery. Some found me on the internet, others through referrals from friends, and many through the recommendations of their optometrists. If you need eye surgery, choosing your surgeon can be a stressful decision. I hope to relieve some of that stress for you by outlining some simple things you can do to choose the best eye surgeon for you.So, how do you choose an eye surgeon? Most people consider their eyesight to be their most important sense. Yet, each year millions of people have eye surgery without doing any research on their surgeons. Who performs your glaucoma surgery is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.

Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do the research necessary to find an excellent eye surgeon. I will outline a list of 10 Things You Must Know Before Choosing Your Glaucoma Surgeon. With this list you can find an exceptional eye surgeon in less time than many people devote to choosing their next car.

1Use caution when evaluating “in-network” physicians. Despite what’s stated in your health insurance’s marketing materials, don’t assume in-network physicians provide better quality care. Currently there isn’t a tried-and-true, scientifically sound method for rating the quality of physicians. Any insurance company that suggests physicians participating in its own network provide better quality care is painting an inaccurate picture.

2Ask those you trust. Good sources of information include your internist, optometrist, and friends who have had glaucoma surgery. Even better sources are the operating room nurses and staff at your local hospital. They are often in surgery with eye doctors and know who has the “best hands.” Nurses are by nature very helpful people and will often be happy to answer your questions. The challenge will be getting past the hospital’s automated telephone menu and gaining access to a live operating room nurse. I would suggest calling the hospital’s main number in the morning. Choose the option for a live operator. Once you have a live person ask to be transferred to the Operating Room Nursing Station. A nurse will often pick up once the line is transferred.

3Research your surgeon’s education. Where did your eye surgeon train? It’s fairly easy to check the ratings for various training programs. Two objective resources are U.S. News & World Report’s annual rating of Medical Schools and Eye Hospitals, both of which can be found online. Don’t get too hung up on the ranking order. If your surgeon trained at a Top 15 institution, he or she received a top-notch education. Four, research your surgeon’s state licensure. Make sure your surgeon is licensed to practice medicine in your state. Go to your state medical board’s Web site and do an online search. In addition to confirming a surgeon’s licensure, many state license Web sites will also tell you whether there has been any disciplinary or legal action taken against your surgeon.

4Research your surgeon’s state licensure. Make sure your surgeon is licensed to practice medicine in your state.  Go to your state medical board website and do an online search. In addition to confirming your surgeon’s state licensure, many state license websites will also tell you whether there has been any disciplinary or legal action against your surgeon.

5Confirm that your surgeon is board certified. When a physician becomes board certified, it guarantees he or she has met minimum competency requirements. In order to become certified, an eye surgeon must successfully pass both a written and oral examination. Additionally, younger surgeons must re-certify every ten years.

6Visit your surgeon’s Web site. You can often obtain very useful information from your eye surgeon’s Web site. However, keep in mind that the primary goal of most web sites is to market the practice. You won’t find anything negative about your doctor there, but it can give you more insight into the surgeon’s background and practice philosophy.

7Find out what others have experienced. Are testimonials from satisfied patients available on your surgeon’s web site or physician-ranking Web sites? Can you review testimonials in your surgeon’s office? Will your surgeon provide the names and phone numbers of patients who have offered to act as references? It shouldn’t be too hard for your surgeon to come up with a list of people willing to discuss their glaucoma surgery experience with you. Keep in mind that federal privacy regulations limit the amount of information a surgeon may be able to offer regarding other patients who have had surgery.

8Find out how many eye surgeries your doctor has performed. There is a reason they call it the “practice of medicine.” Just like a sports pro, a surgeon’s abilities improve with practice and experience. Every surgeon requires a minimum number of “cases” to become proficient. For glaucoma surgery, this number is probably around 500 but to be safe, choose a surgeon who has performed at least a thousand procedures. How do you find out the number of eye surgeries your surgeon has performed? Just Ask. If you are uncomfortable asking this question, then bring to your appointment someone to ask for you. This is a very important question. These are your eyes. You only have two. Get over your hesitation. Just ask.

9Meet your Surgeon. One of the most important criteria for choosing your surgeon is your ability to trust him or her meet with your surgeon. Make sure you feel comfortable with what your surgeon says and with the level of care. Trust is an important consideration that cannot be sufficiently developed until you talk with your surgeon face to face.

10Finally, get a second opinion. Most people wouldn’t purchase a car without test driving at least one other car. Glaucoma surgery is a very important decision and getting a second opinion is a smart idea many people are uneasy about getting a second opinion but a second opinion is a common medical practice encouraged by the best surgeons. In fact, one quick test of your surgeon’s comfort with his or her own abilities is to let him know that you’ll be getting a second opinion. If the surgeon becomes defensive about this, then you’ll know a second opinion was a good idea after all. Unless you are completely comfortable with your surgeon, get a second opinion. I would, of course, be pleased if you select me as your surgeon and would be happy to offer a second opinion- even if you don’t choose me.

I hope these advice will be helpful to you as you make this very important decision.

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