When the time comes to select and purchase ophthalmological equipment for your ophthalmology practice, things can quickly get overwhelming.
Ophthalmologists rely on a wide range of tools and equipment to diagnose and treat eye problems. In fact, there are more than 130 ophthalmological devices registered with the FDA! What’s more, most of these devices are complex and costly, so it can be difficult to prioritize and know where to begin.
We won’t cover the entire list of ophthalmological devices here, but we’ll highlight some of the most essential pieces of equipment that will help set up your ophthalmology practice for success. Let’s get started!
An Introduction to Ophthalmological Equipment
Before you start looking at specific ophthalmological equipment for your practice, you should do some research and create a detailed budget to help you make smart decisions. Estimates for ophthalmology practice startup costs often fall between $200,000 to $300,000, with equipment costs and tenant improvements being the two most costly investments.
Of course, costs aren’t the only thing to consider as you select new ophthalmological equipment; read on for other important factors to consider before making a purchase.
Key Considerations for Ophthalmological Tools
Before making a purchase as significant as some of the ophthalmological equipment featured in the section below, you should ask yourself two things: 1) will the technology help you deliver better patient care and more desirable outcomes?; and 2) will the device in question improve your practice overall? If the answer to both these questions is a resounding yes, the piece of equipment is worth considering more closely.
Below are some other key things to consider before making a purchase:
- Quality: The quality and precision of the equipment you’re looking at is one of the most important factors to consider. You should read reviews online and talk to other eye care professionals in the industry to get a full picture.
- Durability: Be sure to check the maintenance and warranty information for every piece of equipment you want to purchase.
- Economy: In order to be economical when purchasing new equipment, you’ll need to strike a balance between the revenue that the new piece of ophthalmological equipment could generate for your practice versus what you can afford at the time. It’s a good idea to prepare a return on investment (ROI) analysis for every ophthalmic diagnostic equipment you think about purchasing or upgrading.
- Reimbursements: If you’re purchasing ophthalmological equipment under the assumption that it will be reimbursable, you should confirm that your insurance company will reimburse you for the CPT codes that cover the tests.
- New vs. Used: You will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of purchasing new vs. used equipment and decide what is right for you. Keep in mind that the life cycle of ophthalmological equipment can range anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on the durability of the device, the environment in which it is used, how well it’s been maintained, and more.
- Maintenance: Maintenance is a crucial consideration when purchasing ophthalmological devices. Be sure to think about the cost of upkeep when working on your equipment budget. It’s a smart idea to budget anywhere from 5% to 10% of the purchase cost per year for maintenance, replacement parts, consumables, and staff training.
- Upgrades: As you make purchases and draft an equipment budget, keep in mind the fact that technology in the optical industry is constantly advancing. It’s important for ophthalmology practices to keep up with the latest technology in order to deliver the best and most precise patient care possible.
- Management: It’s best practice to establish an ophthalmological equipment management program within your office in order to stay on top of regular maintenance, upgrades, ROI, user training, industry developments, and more.
Ophthalmological Equipment Your Practice Needs
With so many different ophthalmological tools and devices out there, it can be hard to know where to begin. We put together the list below to introduce some of the most popular and useful pieces of equipment and help you prioritize your investments.
Let’s start off with some of the most essential equipment for ophthalmological diagnosis:
- Ophthalmoscopes: There are two popular types of ophthalmoscopes, direct and binocular indirect ophthalmoscopes (BIO). A direct ophthalmoscope is a hand-held instrument for routine examination of the inside of the eye, including the cornea, the lens, the aqueous and vitreous humor, and the surface of the retina. A BIO is worn as a headset and provides a much wider field of view than a direct ophthalmoscope. It’s often used for retinal examinations because it allows for more complete viewing of the retina.
- Slit Lamp: A slit lamp is an ophthalmological device used to examine the external and internal anterior structures of the eye in order to identify diseases and foreign bodies, fit contact lenses, and visualize surgical laser procedures. Many modern ophthalmology practices now use digital slit lamps rather than manual ones. Some slit lamps come with attachments for cameras, allowing for photographic documentation or telemedicine.
- Tonometer: This device is used to measure and monitor intraocular pressure (IOP). You can choose between three main types of tonometers: Applanation, Non-contact, and Schiotz, all of which have slightly different applications.
- Phoropter or Refractor: A phoropter, also referred to as a refractor, is a device containing many lenses that is used to determine the best-suited lens powers for glasses. Phoropters can be either manually or digitally operated. Digital refractors give the most precise and accurate prescriptions and sometimes come with special features such as Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Keratometer: This device is used to measure the curvature of the anterior central zone of the cornea with measurements known as K readings. The K readings are then used to fit contact lenses, calculate intraocular lens power, and diagnose corneal astigmatism,
- Diagnostic Ultrasound: This equipment uses reflected sound waves from tissue interfaces to produce two types of scans (A and B) for different purposes. A-scans measure the axial length of the eye to calculate the power of the IOL implant post cataract removal. B-scans are used to detect retinal detachments, foreign bodies, and tumors. Some advanced versions of diagnostic ultrasounds use software that produces 3D images
- Fundus Camera or Retinal Camera: This device allows you to take pictures of the back (or fundus) of the eye and document ocular conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, hypertension, and more.
- Digital Lensmeter: A digital lensmeter measures the patient’s current lens prescription, providing a solid starting point for new patients’ eye exams.
Essential equipment for treatment:
- Operating Microscope: This device is used in surgical procedures that require high magnification and variable focusing. Different microscopes have different features, such as pedal-controlled motorized focusing, motorized zoom magnification, and motorized lateral and longitudinal positioning, which allow the surgeon to more easily and efficiently manipulate the microscope.
- Phacoemulsification Machine: Phacoemulsification machines are made up of an ultrasonic system and an irrigation/aspiration system. These machines use ultrasonic energy to break up the opaque lens or cataract into smaller pieces that can then be aspirated out of the eye. Oftentimes, phacoemulsification machines are integrated with vitrectomy machines (described below) to be able to handle more procedures.
- Vitrectomy Machine: A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that removes cloudy vitreous from the eye and replaces it with a clear solution in order to restore normal sight. The procedure requires the use of an operating microscope and a contact lens. Vitrectomy machines are used throughout the procedure to aid in vitreous cutting, irrigation, aspiration, and illumination.
- CryoSurgical Unit: Cryosurgery uses extremely cold temperatures to treat a range of conditions, from retinal detachment, trichiasis, glaucoma, cataract extraction, and more. CryoSurgical units use a cryogen-cooled probe to apply a refrigerant and withdraw heat from target tissue.
- Ophthalmic Lasers: Lasers are incredibly useful ophthalmic tools because of their safety, accuracy, and relative affordability; they are used to treat a wide range of eye problems with low risk of infection. Ophthalmic laser systems are made up of the following components: a laser tube, a pump or excitation source, a power supply, and a cooling unit. There are many different types of lasers, all of which emit specific wavelengths of light in order to treat different eye conditions.
As a reminder, this is not a comprehensive list of all the equipment you will need to run a successful ophthalmology practice, but rather some of the most important tools and devices to get you set up and on track to thrive.
Pro Tip: Consult With Other Eye Care Professionals
Once you determine what types of equipment you need to buy for your ophthalmology practice, you should do careful research on the different brands available and seek recommendations from other ophthalmologists in your networks. You can ask others what equipment has had the best ROI for them, what devices they feel are most essential, if there’s anything they feel they could do without, or if there’s anything they would do differently if they were to purchase equipment again. This kind of insider information is incredibly valuable and will help you make more fully informed decisions.
If you need even more support while selecting ophthalmological equipment or putting together your equipment budget, take advantage of ophthalmology consulting and get advice from industry experts.
Ophthalmological Equipment: Wrapping Up
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when choosing the right equipment for your ophthalmology practice. First of all, there are hundreds of different ophthalmological devices to sift through and consider, some of which will be more essential to your success than others. Next, you’ll have to consider the cost and value of each piece of equipment and how they will contribute to the holistic success of your practice. You’ll also need to think about how you will maintain and upgrade your equipment in order to keep up with industry developments. As mentioned earlier, getting some advice and recommendations from other ophthalmologists will go a long way in helping you make smart purchasing decisions.
If you’re looking to network or consult with other eye care professionals as you select ophthalmological equipment for your practice, we’re here to help! Through PECAA, you can connect with hundreds of independent optometrists and ophthalmologists running their own practices and facing challenges similar to your own. There are countless opportunities to network and support one another. Better yet, as a member of PECAA, you’ll have access to a wide range of professional consulting and advisory services.
To access this support and so much more, become a member of PECAA today!