In India, the ratio of an ophthalmologist to citizen stands at a poor 1:90000. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study (2013), over 550 million people in India need eyeglasses and 25 per cent of the world’s blind population reside in India. Accessibility, affordability, and awareness are some of the glaring gaps in the eye care system in India.
Based in Guwahati (Assam), Dr. Parveez Ubed– an ophthalmologist – is working towards changing this narrative through his integrated approach. Having worked at various Government and non-profit facilities for 4 years, Parveez realised that the high cost of eye surgeries or corrective glasses combined with the difficulty in accessing these services prevented low-income communities from seeking help.
Driven by the pressing need and his passion for innovation, he set up ERC Eye Care in 2013. After overcoming many obstacles, he set up the first hub hospital in 2015, using the initial 2 years to better understand the patient needs and optimise resources to make the model very affordable. This was done through setting up of community eye centres and running mobile camps in interior areas of North East India.
Affordable Eye Care For All
ERC Eye Care has 4 hub hospitals located in different districts of Assam, each with a full array of eye care services. For a nominal fee of INR 90, a patient can get a full eye care screening for refractive errors, cataracts, and glaucoma testing, along with a thorough general medical check-up.
As a one-stop solution for the patient’s eye care needs, the hospital also houses an optical store that offers frames starting at INR 99 with its own back end workshop at the hospital and lens processing lab centrally. The low costs ensure that anyone and everyone can get a pair of glasses that they need.
In a country where the cases of preventable blindness are in millions, Dr.Ubed and his team of surgeons conduct cataract surgeries for as low as INR.2000. Along with surgery, pre and post of care for patients from rural communities, this fee also includes a pick-up and drop facility, free stay and a free meal programme.
Team ERC Eyecare is also addressing the lack of awareness regarding eye care that plagues rural India. They conduct outreach activities for refraction error correction and cataract screening. Each mobile unit is used to conduct as many as 20 camps a month.
In 7 years, Praveez has been able to grow his organisation into a 150+ member strong team that has conducted 10,000+ surgeries, impacted 3,72,000 individuals through camps, and delivered 1,25,000 pairs of glasses.
Not at all myopic when it comes to his work, Dr.Parveez saw the lockdown as a great opportunity to catalyse the plans that he had for a while to completely make ERC Eye Care online for patients. Moving from a hub model, ERC is now working towards an Integrated Patient-Centric Eye care model using an AI-based digital platform.
Parveez explains one aspect of the digital platform for us. If an individual who has attended an outreach camp needs a new set of glasses, they can simply approach the community organiser. The ERC trained organiser will have the necessary tools to reassess their eye power through the ERC app. The organiser can then place an order for the glasses through the app, get it delivered, and pay cash on delivery. If a person needs a consult, the app will help them book a session with the ophthalmologist or even an appointment for a hospital visit. Since the organiser is trained in the process, the patient doesn’t need to own a smartphone or know English.
“The omnichannel approach allows the patient to move seamlessly from one channel to another according to the access point that is easiest for them. They can get on any network- hospital, mobile unit, online. Combined with reduced costs and better access, this will completely democraticize digital healthcare for people in rural communities.” shares Dr. Parveez Ubed
The need for physical distancing and safety protocols brought on by the COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for this huge digital transformation. Dr.Parveez predicts that this pivot will help double the reach of their work, reduce costs by as much as 40% for the customers, and increase doorstep delivery by 70%. With all the accolades in Dr. Parveez Ubed’s name, these numbers will very well be true.
ERC Eyecare is currently looking for equity funding as well as soft funding, technological collaborations, and Tech & Marketing leads as part of their team. If you want to be a part of their team or know anyone who would like to join in helping people see better, reach out.