Design thinking will unlock deep tech transformation for ophthalmology

by Andrew Savarese and Luis Diaz-Santana | Dec 6, 2023

Ophthalmology is undergoing significant transformation that will reshape how eyecare is provided in the 21st century. This shift is driven by factors such as an aging population, heightened expectations for healthcare quality, and a shortage of healthcare professionals. It has become imperative to innovate and optimise clinical workflows for greater efficiency. Only a holistic approach – with design thinking at its core – will ensure a successful transformation.

The healthcare landscape is rapidly evolving with the emergence of deep tech innovation. But implementing these technologies without considering their suitability within the broader healthcare system can be risky. Promising innovations can fail not due to performance but because of a lack of fit within specific clinical settings. Success in this evolving landscape necessitates a comprehensive assessment of clinical workflows and healthcare system efficiencies.

Looking to the future of eyecare, two key facts emerge. Firstly, there is a growing demand for eyecare services that outperform the precious availability of time and staff – and this requires a significant shift in service delivery. Incremental changes are insufficient. Secondly, eye care professionals value the personal connection and care they provide to patients, and efficiency improvements must not compromise this crucial aspect.

The future of ophthalmology

These were just two of the key themes that emerged from CC’s landmark report: Towards 2040 – a vision for the future of ophthalmology. It was written in the wake of our ‘Meeting of Minds’ workshop, for which we assembled 16 of the world’s leading ophthalmology experts and practitioners to begin forging a realistic roadmap for bold but practical technology adoption.

As you’ll discover when you read the report, our thought leaders identified the need for a detailed evaluation of patient, clinic, and operating room workflows. Integrated teams, including designers, healthcare professionals, engineers, and technologists, should systematically assess each step and task to identify opportunities for improvement. The objective is to free up healthcare professionals’ time to focus on patient needs and their core competencies. This is where design thinking comes into play.

Design thinking is a versatile approach that seeks innovation for any product or service experience, considering the needs and desires of end-users, stakeholders, and businesses. In the context of eyecare, it aligns the perspectives of clinicians and patients with technological feasibility and viable business models, focusing on user preferences and pain points.

Design thinking a key capability

Design thinking is a key capability at CC – it is a hallmark of a design approach that puts usability and patient needs at the heart of our innovation, including in the medical device space. We believe that only a holistic, design thinking approach can hope to cope with the complexity of healthcare systems. An approach, indeed, that will unleash the new technologies to tackle a myriad of related challenges. Very often people think of the merits of AI-enabled technology in terms of monitoring, treatment and so on. But they don’t focus on its ability to smooth operations and drive workflow efficiencies.

Let’s take as an example AI-powered ophthalmology systems for screening. Capture an image of the back of someone’s eye and within seconds you can establish if they are at risk of diabetic retinopathy and refer them accordingly. AI can review thousands of pictures immediately – so where once you were referring ten people to hospital a day you might now be referring hundreds.

The problem comes when the hospital only has the capacity to process 10 people per day – it can’t cope with hundreds per day. And this is the crux, you haven’t really solved the problem, you’ve simply pushed if further down the line. This is just one example of the need for innovation that addresses not just what we do, but how we do it.

Innovation often occurs at the intersection of existing business models. Collaboration between different stakeholders, such as private equity firms and strategics, can reveal efficiencies and enhance patient outcomes. For example, to address throughput challenges in an ophthalmic clinical setting, a design team could partner with a private equity firm to identify and address inefficiencies. Healthcare professionals would work together to pinpoint pain points and inefficiencies, potentially leading to significant process improvements and technological enhancements.

Design thinking revolves around understanding current practices and experiences while considering industry trends. This understanding, combined with cutting-edge deep technology, is key to shaping the future of eye care.

Ultimately, the commitment of eyecare professionals to their patients will drive industry evolution. Through understanding stakeholders’ needs, promoting collaboration, and harnessing advanced technologies, the eyecare industry can achieve greater efficiency and patient-centric care. Innovation and a patient-focused approach are essential to this transformative journey.

Towards 2040 – a vision for the future of ophthalmology.

Read report now

Expert authors

Global Vice President, Digital Surgery | View profile

Andrew has spent the past 15 years helping start-ups with the growth and utilization of surgical robotics and image guided systems. He currently leads the commercial effort to help clients realize the robotic platforms of tomorrow.

Head of Ophthalmology | View profile

With close to 25 years of experience in the development of ophthalmic instrumentation, Luis leads our ophthalmology innovation team and its commercial strategy.

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