Choosing an Awesome Eye Doctor

How to choose a Eye Doctor

There are several things to consider when choosing an ophthalmologist or LASIK surgeon. Location can be a big factor, particularly if you are in a more rural area. It is also very important to find out what qualifications and experience the doctor has, how patients feel about the doctor, and if their have been any malpractice claims. At the same time, choosing a doctor is a very personal choice, and you must choose one that makes you feel comfortable.

What is an ophthalmologist?
Ophthalmologists are the only eye care professionals who are also medical doctors (MD). They specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes, prevention of eye disease and injury, and sometimes also provide general vision care services.

To become an ophthalmologist, one must complete 4 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, a 1 year internship, and a 3 year residency in ophthalmology, for a total minimum commitment of 12 years after high school. Some will also choose to complete an addition 1-2 years of fellowship training (specializing in a particular area) and/or take board-certification exams.

Do your homework
Don't just pick a doctor out of the phone book, do some research. Friends, family, and coworkers can be great sources for recommendations. Look for a doctor that is board-certified and has a lot of experience. Make sure your doctor's credentials are up to date. If possible, find a doctor who participates in medical research or education, as this is a sign that he or she has kept current and is informed about the latest technological advances.

Look into the doctor's history to see if any malpractice claims have been filed against him or her. Check to see if his or her license has ever been restricted, suspended, or revoked. Discreetly ask current and former patients how they feel about the doctor. In addition, any surgeon with a reputable patient history will gladly provide you with references to contact.

Additional concerns for choosing a LASIK surgeon
Don't go with the cheapest surgeon, and don't go with a surgeon who is "new" to LASIK. The best surgeons are those who have worked on many patients performing procedures similar to your own. The more experience a doctor has with a technology, the more likely they are to wield it correctly, so look for a surgeon with at least 1,000 surgeries under his or her belt, preferably one who specializes in LASIK.

It is also important to look for a doctor who will remain actively involved in your surgical process from start to finish. The doctor should perform most of your exams and monitor your progress following surgery. Look for a surgeon that willingly discusses your risk factors and complications you may experience after surgery. The doctor should have plenty of time to discuss your concerns in detail and review your candidacy for surgery thoroughly. You should feel comfortable talking about your expectations, concerns and medical history.

Avoid centers that focus on budget or bargain basement pricing for LASIK procedures. Remember, you only get one set of eyes; you don't want a hack operating on them. While you may have to pay a bit more, it makes sense to go with a competent physician. Many surgical centers offer payment plans for customers who can't afford the cost of surgery up front. Ask about installment options if you are interested in reducing the impact of pricing. You can often take price out of the equation if you work with a center which provides financing options for patients.

Remember, when it comes to LASIK surgery, a lot of your result depends on the skill and expertise of the surgeon, so, when in doubt, go with the best. A laser doesn't make good eyes, a good surgeon does. Take steps to make sure you work with a qualified, competent surgeon. Only by doing so will you ensure you are well cared for and your treatment outcome meets your expectations.

Questions to ask

General questions:

  • How long have you been practicing?

  • Are you board-certified?

  • What is your specialization?

  • What services do you offer?

  • How long have you been a surgeon?

  • What surgeries have you performed?

If you are considering laser surgery:

  • What laser and diagnostic equipment do you have? Is it all FDA approved?

  • Who will manage my pre-op and post-op care?

  • What percentage of your patients have 20/20 or better vision after surgery?

  • For more questions to ask your LASIK surgeon, please see our other article, Tough Questions For Your LASIK Surgeon

Learn more about choosing an eye doctor on our forums!