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Original Investigation
Clinical Sciences
July 2013

Surgical Outcomes and Cost Basis for Resident-Performed Cataract Surgery in an Uninsured Patient Population

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, University of Washington, Seattle
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013;131(7):891-897. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.202

Importance  In the past, resident physicians have provided care to indigent patients under the supervision of experienced physicians. General consensus exists regarding higher surgical costs of patient care at teaching hospitals. No study has examined the outcomes or the cost basis for resident physicians providing health care to an underserved population.

Objectives  To evaluate the visual results in uninsured patients undergoing cataract surgery performed by resident surgeons at a single institution and to determine the cost-effectiveness of care.

Design and Setting  A retrospective case series of consecutive uninsured patients undergoing cataract procedures performed by attending-supervised resident physicians at the University of Washington from July 1, 2005, through June 30, 2011. Data obtained included demographic information, preoperative and postoperative best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) in the eye undergoing the procedure, and surgical complications. We calculated the costs of services rendered and normalized them to 2011 dollars. These data were incorporated into time–trade-off discounted utility values. Data were expressed as mean (SD).

Participants  One hundred forty-three consecutive patients.

Exposure  Cataract surgical procedures.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Costs of the surgical procedure and the utility value associated with the BCVA in the operated-on eye,

Results  The mean logMAR preoperative BCVA was 1.09 (0.74) (Snellen equivalent, 20/300). The best-recorded mean postoperative BCVA was 0.24 (0.42) (Snellen equivalent, 20/40), obtained at 3.77 (9.30) months. The final recorded mean BCVA was 0.27 (0.43) (Snellen equivalent, 20/40), obtained at a median (SD) follow-up of 16.32 (17.10) months. Four complications in 3 eyes required a second operation; 15 postoperative laser procedures were performed. The mean health care cost per patient was $3437.24 ($1334.68). Using these data, the mean utility value of cataract surgery in this population was 0.80 (0.12); the quality-adjusted life-years gained, 2.43 (1.87); and the discounted ratio of cost to utility, $1889.16 ($4800.62).

Conclusions and Relevance  These data support the success and cost-effectiveness of supervised, resident-performed cataract surgery in an underserved patient population. This study lends support for continuing this traditional scheme of surgical training and education. Further work must ensure that we remain aware of the balance between education and patient care.