Greenwich eye doctor finds ‘way more cost-effective’ method for performing cataract surgery

Greenwich eye doctor finds ‘way more cost-effective’ method for performing cataract surgery

Photo of Robert Marchant
Dr. Omar Shakir poses in the operating room at Coastal Eye Surgeons in Greenwich, Conn., on Tuesday September 28, 2021. The new eye clinic is doing retina and cataract surgery in office. "It's really ground-breaking stuff and I feel like the landscape of health care is about to change on the surgical side dramatically," says Dr. Shakir.

Dr. Omar Shakir poses in the operating room at Coastal Eye Surgeons in Greenwich, Conn., on Tuesday September 28, 2021. The new eye clinic is doing retina and cataract surgery in office. "It's really ground-breaking stuff and I feel like the landscape of health care is about to change on the surgical side dramatically," says Dr. Shakir.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

GREENWICH — Dr. Omar Shakir has a distinctly far-sighted approach to medicine, eye surgery and health-care policy.

Shakir recently opened a cataract surgery suite at his office for of Coastal Eye Surgeons on Holly Hill Lane, which he says is the first in the state that can do that kind of eye surgery in an office setting.

“All other cataract surgery is done in a surgery center, or in a hospital with inflated costs and an intimidating setting,” said Shakir, who is on staff at Greenwich Hospital, Stamford Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The office-based surgical model is one that can benefit patients as well as make health care more efficient and affordable, he said.

Surgery in an office is a brand-new concept,” said Shakir, who said he has a longtime interest in improving public health policy and has earned an MBA. “We believe there are a lot of benefits doing it this way. Here, it’s very relaxed, it’s sort of a boutique experience, not as anxiety-inducing. The patient experience is much better. ... And it’s way more cost-effective.”

According to a trade-industry publication, there are about 100 office-based cataract surgery suites in the country, and the number is growing.

“This is not something that will happen rapidly,” Dr. Dan Durrie, an expert in the field said in a report on trends in ophthalmology. “It’s a 10- to 15-year trend, but I predict that the majority of lens implant surgery will be done in office 10 years from now.”

A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, and it typically is a consequence of aging. Cataract surgery replaces the old lens and implants a new, artificial one. New technology has facilitated the treatment and allowed for the procedure to be done in an office setting, instead of a hospital.

“As instrumentation and technology has improved, we moved it to surgery centers — ambulatory surgical centers, it’s like a hospital outside a hospital. And we are now proving the concept that this can be done in an office-based setting, without the aid of nursing or anesthesia services. And we’ve been having great outcomes,” Shakir said.

The procedure for a patient in the office of Coastal Eye Surgeons uses a sedative and a numbing agent around the eye, so patients do not receive general anesthesia. The procedure is much less expensive when done in the office, the doctor said.

A retinal surgery that he performs at Greenwich Hospital would typically bill a patient and the insurance company around $20,000, he said. The costs involved in the same type of surgery at the office-based setting is far lower, “big time,” Shakir said. The material costs for similar surgery in his office is in the $1,000 range, he said.

Shakir began the surgery practice at the office location in July after going through the regulatory process.

The eye surgeon, who is an instructor at Yale Medical School, said he believes office-based surgical procedures can save “a lot of health care dollars.”

“It has big ramifications,” he said. “Everything can be done in an office based setting, with way more cost efficiency.”

Shakir, a former Cos Cob resident who is now living in White Plains, N.Y., was preparing for a career in health-care leadership and advocacy, and had planned on attending law school. Instead, he got an MBA before gaining a medical degree.

His interest in health-care policy has been inspired in part by his brother, Faiz Shakir, who managed the 2020 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and who has been an influential force in progressive politics. The two have held long discussions about the expense and inefficiencies that are associated with the medical field in the U.S., Dr. Shakir said.

Like Omar Shakir, his brother, Faiz, is also a big baseball fan. Faiz Shakir played for the Harvard baseball squad, while Omar Shakir played ball at Union College in upstate New York. They are both fans of the Boston Red Sox, attending many games at Fenway when Faiz was at Harvard. The brothers also watched the Red Sox train on the Harvard campus off-season.

Dr. Shakir’s interest in eye care and vision stemmed in part from his love of baseball, growing up in Florida. He was struggling at the plate, his batting average plummeting, and it was later determined he had formed fruste keratoconus, an eye disorder.

He never had a big league career in baseball, but Shakir still has major ambitions.

“My bigger aspirations are to have lasting change in the field,” he said. “On the surgical side, this is one of them. I hope to change the industry for the better.”

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com