Chairman of HelpMeSee speaks of enabling access to quality cataract surgeries at affordable prices for blind population in India.
Recently in Mumbai, James Tyler Ueltschi, Chairman of HelpMeSee (which aims at making India cataract-free) shared his plans to carry out over one million surgeries across India by 2020 with aim of creating 50 cataract surgical backlog free districts in some of the most remote and backward regions in the country.
Talking to this correspondent, Ueltshci speaks about his plans for India, virtuyal reality eye surgery simulators and advancement in cataract detection procedures.
Tell us a bit about your plans when it comes to India.
India has made rapid strides in addressing the cataract blindness backlog. On aggregate India performs about 6.5 million cataract surgeries a year. For a growing aging population for a complete elimination of backlog will require 12 to 13 million surgeries a year following the standards in developed countries. The critical issues are regional imbalances in quality and scale of cataract surgeons and surgeries in remote communities living in austere conditions.
HelpMeSee in India and globally is addressing these two fundamental issues based on India’s success in addressing cataract surgical backlog:
Scaling and achieving the best quality in surgical skills training using advanced simulation and proficiency based training for an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 cataract specialists.
Enabling access to quality cataract surgeries at most affordable prices to reach 5 to 6 million underserved blind population in India every year.
Tell us a bit about the virtual reality eye surgical simulator which is used to train to proficiency 30,000 cataract specialists.
Patient safety and quality of surgical outcomes are fundamental principles of simulation based training or cataract specialists.
Virtual reality simulation based training has become a norm in aviation as well as in advanced robotic surgery However fundamental skills straining in surgery is still as it was in the 17th century. Adapting from half a century of FlightSafety experience in aviation training, HelpMeSee has launched the first version of the eye surgical simulator. The expectation is for the simulator to be an effective tool to train cataract specialists to proficiency in large numbers in significantly reduced time.
How HMS’s Eye Surgical Simulator can help in creating Cataract Blindness-free India. Please elaborate.
Simulation based surgical training is highly standardized and skills achievements are objectively reported. This enables a national standard for skilling cataract surgeons as well as volume of quality high quality surgeries delivered to patients. With a national approach to assuring delivery of quality surgery with advanced means of verification using Patient Reach App HelpMeSee promotes highest level of services for every patient, regardless of economic means or geographic isolation.
How is HMS’s Powai learning and development center for surgeons is helping in this field?
HelpMeSee Learning Development Center in Mumbai brings the best of Indian technology for the development of learning development systems and expertise in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). This center will serve India as well as the rest of the world by supporting systems for instructor training, and Training Centers operations in various regions of the world.
How far has cataract detection and operation advanced since its detection?
Identifying patients in communities remains a challenge. HelpMeSee has successfully demonstrated how this can be achieved successfully with the work in 6 districts in India. Once the patients are identified the surgical delivery system need to gear up with an effective patient services system. Again with the use of pre-sterilized single use kits and patient follow up systems this is proven to be possible. Once these components are in place, any patient with cataract blindness could get the surgery done within 1 to 2 months of detection.
Would you say that people still ignore cataract problems in India? Why?
Greater awareness can change that. However I don’t think it is people ignoring the problem but rather, they are unable to exercise their right to see for access, quality and cost reasons.
Where would you say India stands in its fight against cataract?
India is at the cusp of achieving this goal. It has the technology and commitment. With smart execution is key to moving from 50percent to 100percent. India can achieve the goal as a cataract free country in our life time.
Will there ever be a possibility of completely eliminating cataract?