How can you choose the best private cataract surgeon?
Your optometrist tells you that you have cataracts and that you should consider private cataract surgery. So what now? Where do you start looking for a private cataract surgeon who can perform your operation safely and successfully?
Some patients rely on their optometrists or general practitioners to recommend a surgeon. Many patients follow their advice. This is a good way to start, but patients could do more to research their choice of private cataract surgeon. After all this is surgery on your eye and your eyes are precious.
Does your optometrist or general practitioner know all the facts about the private cataract surgeon they are recommending? Could they at least direct you to a place where you can find those important facts?
What else can patients do to choose the right surgeon?
Patients can ask their friends or family who has had the same procedure.
Again, this is a good start. But does your friend know about the success rate of the last year of that surgeon? Are your friend’s needs the same as yours? Are they having the same type of surgery?
So what else can you do?
If someone recommended a private cataract surgeon to you, my suggestion is to see if that surgeon has a website. Surgeons who want patients to know about their practice always have a website that details what they do. The website will offer what they offer with regards to cataract surgery, and where they operate.
Type the name of the recommended private surgeon into Google to find his/her website.
If you haven’t got a recommendation, then you could search for the ‘best cataract surgeon’ or ‘private cataract surgeon’. You should also include the area of the country where you would like to have your private surgery e.g. ‘private cataract surgery in London’.
Several websites will pop up on the first page. You should select one that best matches your needs.
What do you look for on a private surgeon’s website to help you find the best cataract surgeon for you? How can you trust this surgeon?
My recommendation is that you look for the following things.
Does the first page or landing page tell you who that private surgeon is?
Why do I think this is important? In my opinion, the most important aspect of successful surgery is the quality of your surgeon.
Some websites concentrate on the surgeon and his abilities. Other websites concentrate on what the clinic or private hospital provides, with a secondary interest on the surgeon.
Does that private cataract surgeon work in the National Health Service? And if so where?
Why do I think this is important? The NHS is the foundation on which all UK trained doctors rely on. The training programme that NHS doctors and surgeons undergo in the UK is probably the best in the world. It is highly competitive. Trained doctors undergo rigorous training. They complete many exams to get on the specialist register to practice medicine. Obtaining an NHS consultant post in ophthalmology is difficult and competitive. If your consultant has a NHS consultant post, you can be pretty sure they have worked hard to get it.
Obtaining an NHS consultant post in a teaching hospital is generally much harder. These hospitals need their doctors to provide evidence of academic research, teaching and leadership. Specialist hospitals that only deal with eyes are selective when selecting their NHS consultants. Moorfields Eye Hospital is an example in London.
Does the website tell you want you need to know?
You can expect that a cataract surgeon’s website tell you everything you need to know about private cataract surgery. It’s not enough to concentrate on the CV of the surgeon or the rare diseases they have treated. The website should be about providing what you are looking for and not a showpiece for the surgeon.
Can you find facts about cataract surgery without difficulty? How long does surgery take? Does surgery hurt? What is the success rate? Do they use a laser to remove cataracts?
How can you trust this surgeon?
Some of the hard work complete if the surgeon has an NHS consultant post. These hospitals subject consultants to the highest regulation and ongoing performance management. How can you differentiate NHS cataract surgeons? I would recommend reading testimonials from previous patients that the surgeon has treated. The more the better. I would also recommend reading testimonials from colleagues who have worked with that surgeon.
Testimonials are great when written on the surgeon’s website. They are even better if they validated through an independent doctor ratings and review website such as ‘I Want Great Care’.
What is the success rate of that cataract surgeon?
I recommend you look for this on the website and also look at the complication rate of the cataract surgeon. No surgeon can ever lay claim to have a 100% success rate and I would be wary of those who do. Your cataract surgeon should be realistic about the possible complications of cataract surgery.
How many cataract procedures has the surgeon done?
In my opinion, this is a wrong question to be asking. Instead, I would ask how many cataract operations is the surgeon doing now? I agree that experience and the number of previous cataract surgeries is useful to know. But, cataract surgeons get better when they do a high volume surgery and keep doing it.
Some surgeons will claim to have done 10,000 procedures over the last 30 years. They might only be doing 5 a month now. I recommend you find a surgeon who is operating on at least 30 to 40 cataracts a month (either privately or on the NHS). This way you can be confident that they are on top of their game and have the current experience of dealing with many types of cataract.
Should I just pick the professor?
Universities award Professorships as a result of an outstanding contribution to academic research. They do not reflect how good a cataract surgeon is and this can confuse patients. I recommend you pick the best cataract surgeon based on the cataract surgery skills they have. Many university professors do not perform surgery. Their work focusses on instead on producing excellent academic research.
Will you see the same cataract surgeon at every visit?
I have highlighted this because I believe that one surgeon who sees you at every visit. These visits include your initial consultation, your cataract surgery and your post-operative visits. I would be wary of clinics that do not offer this and where you only meet the cataract surgeon on the day of surgery.
Private cataract surgery should be about offering a high quality personalised service that is bespoke. Cataract surgery should not be about offering a low-cost production line.
Once you have decided that this private surgeon is right for you, what now?
My recommendation is that you make an appointment to see them.
Nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting. This is so that you can truly decide whether this private cataract surgeon is right for you. It also gives you a chance to put them on the spot and ask any other questions that are relevant to your case. If you are not happy with them, there is nothing stopping you from seeing another private cataract surgeon for a second opinion.