At Alcon, our mission is to help every person see brilliantly. In designing world-class, digitally-enabled surgical technology and services, we aim to deliver access to care by leading innovation in all markets where we operate.
But addressing global eye care challenges comes down to more than just commercializing next-generation innovation. It’s also about ensuring ophthalmologists, surgeons and staff have the right training to confidently utilize those innovations.
A Milestone, a Mission
This is especially true in the treatment of cataracts, one of the top causes of visual impairment globally, according to the World Health Organization, contributing to moderate or severe vision impairment or blindness in more than 94 million people.
The International Association for the Prevention of Blindness estimates that one ophthalmologist could complete up to 2,000 cataract surgeries per year with the right infrastructure. The standard of care for treating cataracts is phacoemulsification (Phaco) surgery, yet not every patient has equitable access to this treatment technique. This is often due to a lack of national training standards, which results in varying surgical competencies or lack of high-quality outcomes-based programs focused on surgical skills and support.
These are two of the reasons Alcon established its Phaco Development [PD] program in 2009. This program has a bold mission: to establish sustainable cataract and patient care services in underserved communities. The program starts with pre-course support and an intensive training program that combines theory and wet lab surgery experiences with artificial eyes, including guided hands-on surgical practice training in some markets. An experienced Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon leads this portion together with the Alcon Phaco Development Specialists, who assist participants with surgical equipment and techniques.
Alcon is proud to announce we’ve reached a significant milestone: 5,000 surgeons have been trained and more than 6 million eyes have received Phaco surgery for cataract treatment because of our Phaco Development Program.
Where Tech Meets Training
Phacoemulsification has been the standard for cataract treatment for more than 20 years. Throughout that time, Alcon has continued to innovate to bring new phacoemulsification technologies to market, including CENTURION® Vision System and Legion® System. We’ve also dedicated resources toward enhancing surgical capabilities through community training.
A recent study revealed significant success of our program in India. Leveraging our expertise in the ophthalmic surgical space, we help surgeons learn phacoemulsification techniques and provide a support system to ensure the correct implementation post-training.
“In certain markets, varying competencies lead to a lack of optimal outcomes that is otherwise available in many developed countries,” says Sreekanth Ravindran, International Director of Phaco Development at Alcon. “The PD program establishes sustainable cataract practices—helping surgeons adopt the latest techniques and technologies for advanced cataract procedures while strengthening the capabilities of their entire ophthalmic surgical teams.”
Upon graduation from the program, the Phaco Development Program team follows up with participants at their local practice, clinic or hospital. There, our team works alongside the ophthalmic staff to provide support that improves surgical confidence and allows participants to progress to more advanced levels of our program. During the pandemic, our team evolved our training to incorporate even more digital and virtual content, including online courses and serialized training workshops, to help instill continued confidence in the surgeons.
As we look toward the future—one where screen time is increasing, the population is aging and we’re approaching a shortage of ophthalmic surgeons—it’s imperative we address the cataract crisis from all angles. Every surgeon who participates in our Phaco Development Program represents the potential for thousands more people to see brilliantly.