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FEMTO CATARACT FOR ALL

AS INDICATIONS BROADEN, SURGEONS TAKE ON THE BIG OBSTACLE – COST

FEMTO CATARACT FOR ALL

In 2010 and 2011, early clinical reports convinced Shachar Tauber MD that femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery would improve outcomes and reduce complications. But he also believed the technology should be available to all patients – not just those who can pay extra. “If we accept the premise that femtosecond laser surgery is better for the patient, then it’s the right thing to do for all patients,” said Dr Tauber, who is ophthalmology section chair for Mercy Clinic, a multispecialty medical group affiliated with Mercy health system, which operates 32 hospitals and 300 outpatient clinics serving three million people in four south-central US states.

Despite equipment costs approaching $1m, Mercy managers signed on to the all-patient approach because it supported the system’s charitable mission. In March, Mercy opened its new eye and ear clinic in Springfield, Missouri, featuring two cataract surgery suites equipped with Catalys femtosecond laser systems (OptiMedica). Eight months and 2,296 cataract cases later, it’s well on its way to breaking even, without charging a penny extra – even though more than 60 per cent of patients are covered by public insurance. It may be the first clinic in the world to offer femtocataract for all at no extra charge.

Mercy’s financial strength, as well as its expertise in purchasing, process engineering and management, were critical in making it financially possible. That the US Medicare program pays hospitals more than freestanding surgery centres didn’t hurt, either. But as the benefits of femto-cataract surgery, particularly in complicated cases, become clearer, a few surgeons around the world are finding a way to pay, and embracing it as their standard procedure. They believe that costs will eventually come down, and a combination of public and legal pressures could soon make femto-cataract the standard.

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Colin Kerr
Executive Editor,
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