In a recent conversation, Dr. Ryan G. Smith, an ophthalmologist with a passion for state-of-the-art technology, discussed the rewards of seeking out opportunities to learn about innovations in the field. “When I try a new technology, I’m looking at how it can add to my practice and my patient care and what new angle it brings to the surgical experience. Because the partnership between industry and surgeons is so strong in ophthalmology, there are very few negative consequences to trying something new, other than pushing yourself out of your comfort zone,” Dr. Smith explained.

“A huge draw for me entering the field was about how ophthalmology is continually innovating. The only way to keep pushing for that innovation is to be open to it. Trying new things and giving our feedback is essential—even if it’s negative. I learned from my mentor in fellowship that you’ll never know how useful a product is until you try it—and sometimes it takes a few tries to give a new tool a fair evaluation.”

An Expanded Repertoire

“Especially in training, it’s so important to get that exposure to new technology. In residency, my program exclusively used products from Alcon. Some of my colleagues left that program very comfortable with the company’s products and wouldn’t even consider a fellowship program that didn’t use it. I intentionally chose a fellowship that used no products from Alcon because I already knew that platform. I came out of fellowship knowing products from two other platforms— Johnson & Johnson and Bausch & Lomb—in addition to Alcon. Trying other platforms makes you more versatile; you can go into any surgery center ready to use whatever platform they’re using. Consignments change, and there can be shortages, but whatever happens, you’re in control and you can truly talk to your patients from a place of experience. It’s so important to be able to say, ‘I have used all of the platforms, and from my experience, I am recommending the one that will be the best for you.’”

Optimized Patient Outcomes

Dr. Smith cited specific instances where new technologies allowed him to optimize his surgical outcomes. “During my fellowship, when enVista® lens wasn’t our primary monofocal, we were talking about dysphotopsias weekly. enVista is my primary monofocal now, and we’ve talked about dysphotopsias just once since I’ve been in practice—and that case was transient. I have done no repositioning of the lens or optic captures for dysphotopsias.1 But I wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t tried all the different platforms and used this lens in more than a handful of patients.”

A Stepwise Strategy for Greater Success

“When I have conversations with technology-averse surgeons about the idea of exposure to new technologies, I stress that it’s all about sticking to the fundamentals,” noted Dr. Smith. “Don’t let someone convince you to completely change your surgical technique. Don’t change too many things at once. If you are going to trial a lens, for example, don’t change your viscoelastic at the same time. When you trial a phaco platform, ask your rep to put in the settings that you like from the phaco that you are used to. Then figure out how you can optimize. Ask your rep all of your questions. Reps have watched a lot of surgeons, so they can help you out.”

“People on the industry side can be a little overzealous. We welcome change, but too much change all at once can throw you off, so you run back to your security blanket and don’t come out from under it. That’s what I encourage people who are averse to new technology to avoid.”

Tips on Keeping Up to Date on Technology:

  • Seek out opportunities for exposure to new technologies
  • When trying out a new device, change only one component at a time
  • Try out a new tool on standard, uncomplicated cases, even if it will eventually be most useful in complicated cases

Continued Growth throughout Your Career

Dr. Smith states that there are different stages in an ophthalmologist’s career, each of which offers different opportunities to trial new technologies.

“For the resident, experiences with new technologies are not always readily available, so it’s all about asking to try them. This is your time to learn. In your second year and the beginning of your third year of residency, you’re still figuring out how to do cataract surgery. You can get a better feel in the second half of that third year—that’s when I encourage residents to try new instruments, try new lenses, try new phacos if you have access to them.”

“Then look for a fellowship with a different technology from what you’ve trained on. It might be a little bit more of a learning curve in the beginning, but once you’re in practice, you’ll know enough that you can take on new technology and evaluate it quite well. This is an exciting chance to try something different to figure out how you could improve your outcomes.”

“For the established ophthalmologist, it’s important to continue pushing for advancements in our field. There’s always new technology on the horizon. You have to be able to apply that to your practice so you can get the best outcomes. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. We’re here to take care of our patients and get them the best results that they want and deserve, and we can’t do that if we’re not trying and vetting new technology to help deliver on that promise.”