How Should I Choose a Cataract Surgeon?
Reviewed by: Jason Jacobs, M.D. and Leslie Doctor, M.D.
Question: I thought I needed new glasses so I went to my regular eye doctor for an exam. She told me that I had a noticeable cataract in one eye and a cataract starting in the other eye and wanted to send me to an eye surgeon she recommended. I don’t know this person and I really don’t know any eye surgeons because I never needed eye surgery. I looked in my insurance book and there is a list of eye doctors who do cataract surgery and offer cataract operations. I don’t know how to find a good cataract surgeon. Any suggestions?
Answer: Ask People You Trust
Do Not Limit Yourself to the Insurance List
Just because your insurance company lists a Cataract Surgeon as “in-network” does not mean that they are the best for you. Nor does it mean that other very well regarded Cataract Surgeons who are “out of network” do not take your insurance. Sure, there may be a slightly higher co-pay or deductible but this is about eye surgery and a small added expense to get the best Cataract Surgeon in your area may very well be worthwhile.
Search the Internet for Possibilities
While it is not possible to determine everything about an eye surgeon on the Internet it is a good place to begin to develop a list of possibilities. Search “cataract surgeons in (insert your town/city/state)” or “best cataract surgeon in (insert your town/city/state)”. Compile a list of possibilities and compare it to you insurance list and your personal referral list.
Determine the Cataract Surgeon’s Experience Level & Commitment
Once you have identified some possible eye surgeons it is appropriate to call their office and speak with a counselor or surgery coordinator. Determine how often they do Cataract Surgery-they should do Cataract Surgery at least 2 days per month to maintain their skills. Determine how many total Cataract Operations they have done-it should generally be at least 500 to build proficiency. Determine whether they do their surgery in a hospital or outpatient ambulatory surgery center-you will be more comfortable and have a better overall experience at an ambulatory surgery center. Determine whether they use advanced technology intraocular lens implants such as lens implants for astigmatism and near vision correcting lens implants-they should, in order to offer you the best vision correction options in case you are a good candidate for one.
When investigating the background of Cataract Surgeons it is easy to get “over impressed” by their residency or fellowship training. While attending solid training programs may contribute to the “learning curve” it does not really indicate how well an eye surgeon can perform the Cataract Surgery procedure. Sometimes in the “best” training programs surgeons actually get very little surgical experience because the “superstar” faculty does all the surgery and they just assist. Visa versa, sometimes less well known training programs expose residents to a great deal of surgical experience-it’s about their experience not where they went.
Review Their Licensure History
All eye surgeons must be licensed to practice medicine in the state that they practice in. By going to your state web site you can confirm their license status as well as review any history of disciplinary or legal action against your surgeon
Visit Your Cataract Surgeon’s Web Site
Physician practice web sites really serve two goals-patient information and education and marketing. While it is not likely that a practice web site will ever tell you that a Cataract Surgeon has poor skills, the attention to detail and quality of the information provided is an indication of how this eye surgeon presents him or herself. A practice web site cannot overcome poor surgical skills but it can tell you how seriously they take their role in patient education. It also will give you some insight into the practice philosophy and approach to eye surgery care.
Schedule a Consultation & Meet the Surgeon.
The above research can give you an idea if a particular Cataract Surgeon is someone you should strongly consider to select as your eye surgeon. However, you cannot know if this is the person you want performing eye surgery for you until you get a chance to meet them. Personal comfort, demonstrating empathy and building trust are characteristics you can only experience face to face. It is important to hear, directly from the surgeon, what your situation presents to them in terms of challenges and how their experience translates into helping you get the best possible results.
Last, But Not Least….. Get a Second Opinion.
Most people don’t buy a car without test-driving a couple or more. Don’t limit your eye surgeon selection to a choice your insurance has made for you. If there is any discomfort, doubt, uncertainty or insecurity PLEASE get another opinion. The choice of an eye surgeon for Cataract Surgery is the most important step in the entire process. The best surgeons do not mind that you have or are going to get a second opinion. In fact, one quick test of your eye surgeon’s comfort with his or her own ability is to let him or her know that you would like a second opinion. If the surgeon becomes defensive about this then you know the second opinion was a good idea, after all.
To summarize-you owe it to yourself to have the best when it comes to your cataract surgery. Do not be limited by your insurance company. Take the time necessary to find the best Cataract Surgeons in your area. Schedule a consultation and a visit with them. Ask your questions-get comfortable-choose wisely.
The information that has been provided here is intended to give patients a basic understanding of how to choose a Cataract Surgeon. It is possible that your individual experience might be different. None of the information provided here is meant to be a substitute for or replace your eye doctor's consultation nor does it replace the need for you to consult with your Cataract Surgeon about specific details of Cataract Surgery and Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implantation.