With the number of people over the age of 60 expected to almost double from 12% to 22% by 2050 according to the World Health Organisation, cataract cases are expected to rise. This Cataract Awareness Month, Claire Ferguson, Divisional Chief Executive in Healthcare at electronics manufacturer Halma, reflects on the critical role ophthalmologists play in diagnosing, treating and preventing disorders of the eye and visual system and how technological healthcare innovation can tackle preventable blindness.
Healthcare innovation leads to eyesight-saving technologies
One of Halma’s Switzerland-bases is a global market leader in cataract surgery technology. Its injectors enable every fifth cataract surgery worldwide, enabling six million new lenses to be implanted each year.
“Working with eye surgeons, they constantly look for ways to disrupt themselves to find new ways of improving its technology in support of eye surgeons and improving patients’ lives,” explains Ferguson.
The team spotted an opportunity to provide greater flexibility to eye surgeons and improve cost efficiency for its customers. Previously, the company provided two types of injectors – a push motion and a screw motion. Now it has developed a new product to enable eye surgeons to complete eyesight-saving surgery even more flexibly.
“The dual injector is an innovative device that can be easily and quickly adjusted to work in either push or screw mode, based on the surgeon’s preferred operating mode or the patient’s needs,” said Ferguson. “Once the intraocular lens cartridge and loading chamber are fitted onto the injector, the surgeon simply swaps the finger flanges to use their preferred method. This offers surgeons more flexibility but with the same accuracy of a single mode injector. It also provides a more cost-effective option for hospitals and clinics by simplifying the supply to one combined product.”
Making eyesight healthcare technology accessible
As the global healthcare industry works to overcome health inequalities, Ferguson is aware that many people affected by preventable blindness live in remote places, without access to regular screening and specialist care.
“A lack of early treatment means the number of people with vision impairment worldwide is expected to grow,” she says. “Loss of vision severely impacts the quality of life for people of all ages, but it also has a large economic impact. The World Health Organization estimates that annual global costs of productivity losses associated with vision impairment from uncorrected sight loss alone is US$270bn.”
Eyesight-saving technologies, like the specialist lens injectors, are being made available to surgeons in India.
“They use this innovation to make small injections during cataract surgery and insert a tiny lens that corrects people’s sight. This has helped local patients regain near-perfect vision, enabling them to return to work.”
For Ferguson, it’s critical to remember the positive impact of innovation isn’t just felt by patients – there are clear economic benefits too.
“Society benefits by patients not living with cataract disability, income is saved by full time employment and governments save medical costs supporting people with cataract disabilities.”
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