A history of innovation
Paris Hatzianastasiadis of Lumenis tells OT about the company’s pilot programme to bring dry eye treatments into optical practices
Paris Hatzianastasiadis, Lumenis sales and marketing director, Vision, for Europe, Middle East and Africa, speaks to OT about the programme and why optometrists should get involved.
Can you tell us about Lumenis and some of its key focuses?Lumenis started with ophthalmic solutions and then ventured outward. There was always an innovative focus: the company released the first photocoagulator 50 years ago, then 23 years ago they came out with the first selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) system and were the innovators of the first intense pulsed light technology (IPL).
Lumenis has set the pace for one of the major diseases of our time – dry eye. We have the golden standard in dry eye treatment through our platform, Optima IPL. It is one of the most researched systems in the world today, with more than 20 clinical studies showing its efficacy and safety.
It’s a system that really improves patient’s lives, because the alternative would be for them to continue with drops and drugs for the rest of their lives, without seeing any major significant changes in their quality of life.
Dry eye is the largest segment in the ophthalmic market. The reason being, is that it has both environmental but also lifestyle factors, because everyone is looking at screens now for 10 or 15 hours a day. When we look at the screen, we forget to blink which irritates the eye and we see those negative cascades that lead to problems.
What is unique about the Optima IPL?The Optima IPL has the efficacy and clinical studies to back it up. It is also one of the systems with the fastest return on investment (ROI) in the market. For an optometrist or ophthalmologist that wants to make an investment, they have to look at the efficacy and safety for the patients, and the ROI, because at the end of the day – a practice is a business. Because the system doesn’t have any consumables or disposables, you can make your money back very fast. With the current prices of treatments for patients, it would take less than 40 patients to pay for the system.
What is Lumenis’ dry eye pilot programme?In the summer, we started a pilot programme in the UK through the optometry market. We believe that most major procedures done by ophthalmologists have to start on a healthy cornea. This is a staple for having good results. To have a healthy cornea, the first thing you have to take care of is dry eye.
We created a few reference centres in the Greater London area that provide training and education to the optometry community. The plan is to extend it through the first half of 2021, with the centres able to provide training for the rest of the optometry community. If a new optometrist wants to buy the technology, they would be able to go to that site, get trained and certified and then be able to use the solution safely.
The optometrist can prepare the patient, by taking care of the dry eye, and delivering them on to the surgeon for their cataract, glaucoma or other procedures. We have seen that by operating this way, outcomes are significantly better.
The treatment is very simple and especially in a COVID-19 era, it has the least contact with the patient. The optometrist carries out a full diagnosis and consultation to classify the patient according to the severity of the case, and then they go ahead with a treatment which consists of four sessions every 10 days to two weeks. Once this is done, they carry out a post-op diagnostic to validate the results. Then they can refer the patient to the surgeon for any surgical procedures.
The reference centres are also going to act as awareness hubs for the main public – and will present their findings through social media and podcasts.
Why should optometrists get involved?This process empowers the ophthalmologist to specialise in what they do best, which is surgery, and to leave the patient preparation with a capable person who can dedicate the time to it. This is a UK pilot because the legislature is such that it allows optometrists to do things outside of spectacles and measurements, such as glaucoma, which is huge. This will be a big relief because ophthalmologists are scarce in the UK and are very busy with a backlog of patients. This system would also improve the patient’s waiting time. In addition, this is the era of the empowered consumer; they will ask for solutions like this, and the optometrist has to be ready with the answers.
What is one of Lumenis’ most-recently released products?Lumenis was the first to invent a non-invasive procedure for glaucoma, called selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) – a laser that goes into the iris, and without burning, opens up the channels to release the pressure. In early 2021, Lumenis released a brand new digital platform, meaning that the professional is able to take pictures and videos of the whole procedure. With this, they can classify patients with video records, upload then automatically to the patient record systems, as well as showing patients exactly what they underwent. This can also be used in universities or the NHS so students can see a consultant perform the procedure live. We are living in an era of videos; it is now a must.
What are the company’s aims for the months ahead?The ambition for everybody is to put 2020 behind us and move forwards. Our expansion plans are throughout the big five markets in Europe and that is where we are going to take our focus for the pilot programme that we’re running in the UK currently. Going forwards, the model of the company is to innovate and try to improve patient’s lives.
How was Lumenis affected by COVID-19, and how has the company had to adapt?As a company, most of us work remotely throughout the world. Previously, I used to be on a plane most of the time but now I am in front of a screen. It has been a challenge, but we have adapted with the technology and I think it is something that will stay with us.
With trade shows cancelled, we created a virtual booth so that customers could interact virtually with a 3D rendering of the system. There are also small avatars of me and my colleagues inside the booth that could be clicked on for a live chat. It is small things like this that we are trying to incorporate to keep people together.
The major shift, I think, was in sales. The traditional sales process was that you had a face-to-face with your contact or met at a trade show. That’s gone. What we have seen now is that marketing plays a huge role in lead generation and also demand generation. Marketing and sales now go hand-in-hand and I think it is the way forward.
COVID-19 was something that nobody was able to predict and was a major shift in everyone’s way of business. In 2021, we are going to continue using the new tools that we gained through this experience. All the digital marketing efforts and digital tools actually make business flow in a better way. This is something that has come through the hardships.