Worldwide cataracts are the leading cause of blindness. Here in the US, every year there are more than 50,000 cataract surgeries performed by the Department of Veterans Affairs alone. But up until last year there had never been a system in place to collect detailed patient outcomes on a national level, in either the private or public sectors.
That's where Dr. David Vollman comes in. Dr. Vollman is the staff ophthalmologist at the Veterans Health Administration in St. Louis. He helped organize and implement a pilot project for tracking cataract surgery results that will lead to the creation of a national VA database.
For his work that is literally helping people see better, Dr. Vollman has been nominated as a Service to America Medal Finalists. The annual awards program put on by the Partnership for Public Service is like the Oscars for federal employees.
Dr. Vollman told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the results from the pilot program will help in the improvement and refinement of current medical practices, benefiting veterans and the general population.
"We wanted to make sure we weren't having any increased rates of complications or issues. What we discovered was our patients were performing really well. The visual equity outcomes our patients were having were very comparable to other studies,"said Dr. Vollman.
What is a Cataract?
"It is a clouding of the natural lens in your eye. Think of your eye like a camera lens and how it focuses light. It is the same principle with the lens in your eye, it helps focus light on the back part of the retina and that helps us see. In the US we have a good surgical technology that allows us to remove that cloud lens and replace it with a new acrylic one. Cataract surgery is the most common ophthalmic surgical procedure performed by the VA and in the Medicare system."
How will the database work?
"The new VA database will include information on patient conditions and risk factors before and after the procedure, enabling ophthalmologists to make better recommendations about surgery, provide enhanced patient care and, ultimately improve the quality of the procedure’s results."
"I am proud of the fact that I work for the VA. People who have actually been able to receive care in our clinics feel proud of the care they receive. A lot of the Veterans say that they are happy with the care they receive from practitioners we have here at the VA medical center. We can be trendsetters because we have the ability to do some larger scale projects on a nation-wide scale."
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