Santen has been working to improve access to eye health as part of its efforts to accelerate the development of ophthalmic ecosystems with the ambition to realize a world where every individual can live their happiest life through their best vision experience.
A feature story focusing on Santen's initiatives to improve access to eye health was published in this year's Integrated Report(published in October 2022) to help external stakeholders understand the significance of Santen's activities.
We also introduce comments from our colleagues, who are leading the Santen initiatives highlighted in this article to improve access to eye health.
Santen is helping ophthalmologists to improve their skills in surgery and treatment and contributing to the education of ophthalmic technicians and other professionals to make appropriate care available to the patients who need it.
In many emerging economies, there are not enough medical professionals, including ophthalmologists and ophthalmic technicians. This is preventing patients from receiving adequate treatment, or even being correctly diagnosed. The number of ophthalmologists per 1 million people is 89.6 in Japan and 60.3 in the United States, but only 11.3 in China and 16.5 in Vietnam.
Santen develops socially significant products and is striving to reduce the number of untreated patients in the world by expanding access to ophthalmic care. Our goal is to contribute to more than 60 million*1 patients by 2025.
*1 Estimated total no. of patients to which Santen contributed (disease areas: inflammation/allergies, cornea, glaucoma, cataracts) in FY2019 was approx. 43 million, calculated based on JMDC's estimated total no. of patients for Santen's Rx products and Santen's shipment data
A particular challenge is disparities in medical care, especially for medical professionals in rural or otherwise remote locations, which lack access to the latest information and surgical training systems. Santen cooperates with external partners to raise the quality of care, such as by providing opportunities for ophthalmologists to improve their skills in cataract surgery and glaucoma treatment. In addition, Santen works to expand access to care by devoting efforts to educating other medical professionals such as ophthalmic technicians.
Santen established a partnership in 2020 with Orbis International (Orbis), a leading global non-governmental organization that has been a pioneer in the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness for four decades.
Cybersight, Orbis's award-winning telemedicine and e-learning platform for eye health professionals, offers opportunities for efficient learning as well as a wide variety of online learning content, including courses on various eye disease-related topics and the latest medical information, thereby contributing to the development of ophthalmologists' expertise. Cybersight provides eye health professionals with free access to a standardized educational platform and world-class knowledge, no matter where they are on the planet. The high-quality educational content is available online in multiple languages, enabling local ophthalmologists and other medical professionals to learn effectively in their language of choice.
As of July 2022, Cybersight offers six online courses and over 20 educational resources on glaucoma in Chinese, and two online courses and four educational resources in Vietnamese. The number of ophthalmologists using Cybersight for their study totals over 1,700 in China, 1,600 in Vietnam, and 5,300 in India. They are among more than 67,000 eye care professionals across many countries and regions globally using the platform.
Developing skills in diagnosis and surgery requires a suitable learning environment and ample opportunities for training, including access to equipment, educational materials, programs, and skilled trainers. To ensure efficient access to high-level professional training for as many ophthalmologists as possible, Santen has partnered with Orbis to offer innovative training programs whose features include diagnostic support assisted by AI and digital technology, online remote instruction, and surgical training using simulation kits–all through Cybersight. Santen will continue helping ophthalmologists in emerging economies to develop their skills in glaucoma diagnosis and surgery.
Another key to making high-quality ophthalmic treatment more accessible is to provide ophthalmology residents with standardized, high-quality education, thereby increasing the number of fully trained ophthalmologists. Santen supports Orbis in developing and offering practical solutions for raising the level of ophthalmic education, including tools for evaluating training programs, instructor training programs, and training tools based on digital technology. These efforts lead to standardized training programs for ophthalmology residents in Vietnam and India and help local educational institutions enhance their resident training capabilities.
We have entered a strategic partnership with the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), which is widely recognized internationally as a world leader in research and education for eye care professionals. We are working to jointly develop and deploy an internationally accredited educational program that is enhanced to be offered on a combined online and offline platform to address the shortage of trained healthcare professionals, which will contribute to the development of the eye care ecosystem throughout the region. We have begun offering the ophthalmic technician training program from Singapore to the region as the first initiative under the partnership and plan to expand the program to other countries and regions.
A member of the Integrated Report project team who introduced Santen initiatives to improve access to healthcare explained the challenge as follows:
“Some people lack access to appropriate healthcare for economic or other reasons. Pharmaceutical companies can help these people by improving access to healthcare and creating an environment that allows anyone to access the healthcare they need regardless of their financial situation.” “This year, we decided that disclosing the details of Santen's efforts and thoughts in this Integrated Report would allow stakeholders to grasp and understand what we are doing. Interviewing colleagues and learning about the work they do with local communities has strengthened my appreciation for Santen's commitment to developing the eye care ecosystem.”
The person who succeeded in setting-up a partnership alliance with Orbis in order to eliminate disparities in access to eye care said as follows:
“The number of visually impaired people is expected to increase by more than 600 million over the next 30 years. Health is valued universally, and visual impairment has a significant impact not only on an individual's quality of life but also on the society and economy. In order to meet the ever-increasing need for eye care and to eliminate disparities in access to eye care, we cooperate with external partners to support the development of eye care professionals and the improvement of their skills and expertise, especially in countries and regions that do not have a good enough medical environment. Through such activities we contribute to the development of sustainable and productive eye care services in these regions. I would like to have our stakeholders know more about these efforts too.”
The person who established a partnership with SNEC to improve the overall productivity of eye care services, allowing patients to receive appropriate healthcare said as follows:
“Serving as the PMO (project management office) for activities under the strategic partnership with SNEC, I work with internal and external stakeholders to develop strategies to carry out our partnership activities in different regions, drive partnering activities, and develop and implement plans for pilot activities and their final rollout. For example, training allied eye care professionals*2 will enable task shifting*3, which will increase the overall productivity of eye care services and allow patients to receive appropriate healthcare. We will continue to carry these activities forward with passion to contribute to the development of our business foundation for Santen's sustainable business growth.”
*2 Allied eye care professional: eye care professionals such as nurses, orthoptists, and optometric technicians who assist ophthalmologists
*3 Task shifting: making efficient use of limited human resources by delegating appropriate part of health care service to health care professionals other than doctors.