Industry leaders discuss impact pandemic has had on ophthalmology business

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During the Innovate Without Borders panel discussion at Glaucoma 360, industry leaders were asked how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted different aspects of their businesses. In the accompanying video, Kfir Azoulay, Vice President & Head, Corporate Heidelberg Engineering provides an in-depth look at steps Heidelberg Engineering continues to take to adapt to the post-COVID environment.

Thomas A. Mitro, President, and Chief Operating Officer
Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Inc

How has COVID altered how Aerie’s engages with doctors?

Like so many others, the advisory board meetings that Aerie’s commonly run switched to a virtual format when COVID-19 hit. “The first 5 to 10 minutes at the start of each one of our meetings, we allow for physicians to do nothing but talk to each other, to reconnect, because we know it’s been practically a year since they’ve seen each other,” said Mr Mitro.

Jeannette Bankes, President & General Manager, Global Surgical Franchise

Did the pandemic cause supply chain issues for Alcon and how has it changed business going forward?

One area that Alcon is proud of is its use of artificial intelligence and the capability to forecast supply needs. Because the pandemic impacted different regions of the world at different times, Alcon aimed to minimize any potential stockpiling by monitoring ordering patterns and identifying any that were not standard, which may have created a shortage for the rest of the world.

“I would tell you a couple of things we changed and learned from it is to make sure we’re using our artificial intelligence to be able to manage an already complex supply chain,” said Mrs Bankes. “Stand back and understand when your intelligence tells you [something] would be way over demand and somebody’s stockpiling, which quite frankly would hurt the rest of the world.”


Ramin Valian, Vice President Glaucoma and Reimbursement, US
Allergan, an AbbVie company


How has clinical trial recruitment and engagement been impacted?

One of the biggest issues Allergan has faced regarding clinical trials is the limited capacity allowed in the office and the repeat visits required of patients, resulting in many cancellations. As a result, Allergan has been partnering with third parties to help recruit patients and find innovative ways to increase patient engagement.

“The lifeblood of all our companies is innovation and clinical trials,” said Mr Valian.

Chris Calcaterra, MBA, Chief Operating Officer

What are your insights on productivity and the remote working environment?

Mr Calcaterra said he was surprised with how quickly employees adapted to a remote working environment but as time has passed the lack of personal interaction and face-to-face meetings seems to have hurt productivity.


Kfir Azoulay, Vice President & Head, Corporate
Heidelberg Engineering

How is Heidelberg making changes to adapt to what appears to be a new telemedicine reality?

Heidelberg Engineering has been tackling many of the challenges facing the “digitalization of the healthcare space” for several years and the pandemic has just accelerated the work due to the increased need, said Mr Azoulay. He emphasized the importance of this digitalization.

“It behooves all of us, not just Heidelberg Engineering or Company X or Company Y to push for greater standardization of data and for the upgrade of the infrastructure of healthcare to facilitate a more efficient data exchange, cross-site collaborations, and telemedicine, which is why we’re all here,” he said.

Raymond Kong, Chief Commercial Officer
New World Medical

What is New World Medical’s outlook for 2021?

New World Medical extended terms to ease some of the financial burdens their customers are experiencing, as well as offer new innovative programs to help customers access products during the pandemic. The company hopes to build on this going into 2021, Mr Kong said.

Peter Sallstig, MD, Global Head Development Division, Senior Vice President & Corporate Officer

How has Santen handled people management and the COVID environment?

Employees that need to return to work in the office have to follow stringent procedures, including signing up in advance, undergoing temperature scans, remaining in designated places, and contract tracing should someone show symptoms later on. 

When the pandemic first began in March 2020 and surgical masks were difficult to find, Santen was able to send them out globally to their associates and their families. “We kept on doing this throughout the whole time just to make sure that we can do our best to protect them and their loved ones,” said Mr Sallstig.

Patrick Smale, Vice President of Marketing, Surgical Glaucoma
Sight Sciences

How has the pandemic changed your marketing efforts?

Sight Sciences had plans to launch their next-generation Omni surgical handpiece at an ophthalmology meeting in May of 2020 but when the meeting switched to a virtual platform due to COVID restrictions, they had to quickly figure out how to launch a product virtually. They ended up sending the surgical device to surgeons at their homes and have a sales representative walk them through the features and utilization over a Zoom call.

“I’m sure 12 months ago that would have seemed extremely foreign,” he said. “It’s much more commonplace now.”

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