Delivering successful innovation in the healthcare arena is not just about identifying promising improvements. Nor is it simply a question of effective implementation. We face numerous complex challenges in the process of innovating and leading change within our industry; the eye care sector is no exception.
The problems that arise from scaling advancements that can truly improve the life of our patients are many and varied. But of all the obstacles we come across – a shortage of resources, of funding, or a lack of technology – I believe the most critical is a lack of faith.
Why is faith so important? Because innovation seldom succeeds in the first attempt, yet given the scale and need in global healthcare, one has to succeed. Failure is not an option, and is never an excuse to stop trying. What is clear, however, is that success happens only through an unwavering focus on purpose, and through relentless perseverance.
At Aravind Eye Care System, we’re dedicated to delivering innovation on a very broad scale: our company’s purpose is defined as “eliminating needless blindness”. Successful innovations are driven by the right perspective and a clear end goal. Our strategy has always been to go after those not getting care, rather than competing for those who already receive it. So the focus is on people who would benefit from eye care intervention, but have traditionally been unable to receive it because of access, cost, social or awareness issues. This outlook throws up many challenges, but it also opens up a fertile field for innovation.
You’ve distilled your purpose. Now what? In our case, we accessed “non-customers” through outreach, which through a series of initiatives, continually evolved and became both effective and efficient. Recognising our limited resources, we positioned our outreach as a community-led initiative with them taking care of all the organisational aspects of an eye camp and patient mobilization. The local community involvement not only reduced our costs and effort, but also enhanced the attendance in the screening eye camps.
My priority is not to seek ever more clinical solutions, but to build a strong faith within those teams that are involved in implementing, and scaling, our various innovations. We took a deep dive into the low uptake of surgery in the early days and introduced free transportation and food for the surgical patients. This resulted in the surgical acceptance surging from 5 per cent to over 60 per cent. Several years later, experimenting with patient counsellors to talk to the patients advised to undergo surgery, further pushed the acceptance levels to 85 per cent. When GIS technology was available over two decades ago, it was harnessed to focus the camp publicity to targeted communities. This resulted in over 30 per cent increase in the camp attendance.
Last year over 2,500 screening eye camos were conducted resulting in half a million patients screened and over 90,000 transported and operated in the hospital. Such continuous innovations (recognised in hindsight) happened due the strong focus the three key ‘faith’ lessons.
Innovating successfully means effectively deploying workable solutions to everyone who will benefit from them. We are working towards ensuring universal eye health – making sure that everyone in need of eye care gets it. Through a series of trials we now have an effective monitoring process in place, and we believe that we are close to 100 per cent eye care coverage across 3.5 million people.
Are you keeping the faith?