Delivering health care in rural areas often can be challenging for members of the medical community. The specialty of ophthalmology demonstrates these challenges very well: the specialized equipment and tools that are required are prohibitively expensive for rural hospitals to purchase, especially considering lower patient volumes.
At the same time, most ophthalmologists do not feel comfortable delivering care that is anything less than state of the art. Although patients in rural areas are accustomed to having to travel to reach health-care providers, the option to stay close to home is nearly always preferred.
Meeting the need for health care in rural areas is an important mission for many physicians, because patients in rural areas deserve the same standard of care that is delivered in metropolitan areas. To meet the challenges of providing quality care close to patients' homes, ophthalmologists should consider the use of an outsourcing service.
Benefits of outsourcing
I have had a relationship with such an outsourcing provider (Sightpath Medical) for 8 years and have found its services to be an ideal way to bring the highest level of care to rural areas.
I am able to select my own equipment, instruments, supplies, and IOLs. The company brings the equipment to the facility on designated days, and the facility pays for the service on a per-case basis. With this option, I have access to upgraded equipment at any time, and the facility makes no capital investment. The facility does not have to manage inventory or maintenance of the equipment.
As an additional service, the outsourcing company also provides ophthalmic-specialized technicians, certified by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, who are able to scrub-in for procedures or assist the facility as needed.
I have had experience working with the outsourcing service in a previous practice. After purchasing my own practice in Orem, UT, I found it necessary to re-evaluate the way we brought equipment to satellite facilities. The pre-existing arrangements required me to transport the surgical equipment myself. The outsourcing provider's services and transport technology ensured a more reliable and safe alternative, however. I was confident that access to state-of-the art equipment—transported securely and safely—would allow me to provide the same level of care as in my home facility.
This was a key consideration for the satellite facilities in choosing to outsource. Providing the highest standard of care at the rural facilities was the only option I would consider.
Beyond the confidence I had in its services, the outsourcing company was able to demonstrate its value to the facility managers with competitive and flexible pricing and by developing contracts to meet each facility's unique needs. In the end, all parties involved were highly satisfied with the agreements, because they provided the best level of care for our rural patients. I selected my phacoemulsification unit, instrument trays, viscoelastics, and IOLs, and was able to choose all the tools I knew I would feel confident using with patients.
Additionally, in every location, the technicians have integrated seamlessly with the hospital staff and developed positive relationships. Their skill sets are outstanding and they are a valuable resource in the operatory.