Y. Ralph Chu, M.D. Q&A

Q: How do physicians at your facility ensure empowered patients receive the best care possible?

A: To help our patients make the best decisions, our focus is on education, which begins before the patient gets to our office. The practice’s website is an important way to start the educa- tion process. I think of it as extending the borders beyond our practice walls.

When patients call for information, we work to empower them, so they start understanding how to best access their care and how to educate themselves. Patients need to know not only about their medical conditions, but also about new technologies available to improve and preserve their vision.

We’ve also empowered our staff — from the receptionist to the patient care coordinators — and created a vertically integrated health care team that helps guide patients through the process at every step. I think the team approach inside the practice is important.

Q: In what clinical trials is your facility currently engaged?

A: One of the founding principles of my practice is to move the field of eye care forward by participating in clinical trials; I think doing so helps us be more comprehensive in our approach to surgical options for our patients. Since our founding, we’ve participated in more than 50 clinical trials, and we currently have four active trials that are pretty exciting.

One study is a corneal cross-linking project. Outside the United States, this technology has been shown to effectively treat patients who have conditions of the cornea, called keratoconus or ectasia after LASIK. These patients’ corneas become progressively unstable, causing their vision to deteriorate.

The technique of cross-linking actually strengthens the cornea, stops the progression of the disease and potentially helps patients avoid the need for a corneal transplant. We’re one of the first sites in the country to participate in this particular trial.

Q: What excites you most about what’s happening in health care at the moment?

A: There’s a lot of change going on in health care right now, but I definitely believe in every change, there’s an opportunity. So on the philosophical level — the desire to empower patients to make more of their own choices in how they spend their health care dollars and how they interact with the health care system — change in the industry is an exciting thing.

Q: What message do you most wish to communicate to the Twin Cities health care community?

A: The independent practice is alive and well — it’s still possible, with the right mindset of the physician, to practice and survive as a solo or independent practitioner. With the many changes, we keep seeing physicians selling their practices to larger health care conglomerates, but I think it’s important for physicians to step back and remember we are the ones who are vital to maintaining the doctor-patient relationship.

As patients become more empow- ered to decide where to spend their health care dollars, there will be an opportunity for physicians to remain independent and deliver care in the way they choose.


Y. RALPH CHU, M.D., earned his Bachelor of Science and medical degrees at Northwestern University Medical School and completed an ophthalmology residency at Duke University Eye Center. Dr. Chu is an adjunct associate professor of ophthalmology at University of Minnesota Medical School, Vice President of Outpatient Ophthalmic Surgery Society, and member of the editorial boards of EyeWorld magazine, Refractive Eyecare and Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today.


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