By Neeraj Mahajan
Cataract is a common disorder and leading cause of preventable blindness in more than 60% population above 50.
To help India eliminate cataract blindness by 2020, HelpMeSee – a global campaign to end cataract blindness has introduced a first-of-its-kind surgical training simulator to help eye surgeons handle cataract. The simulator will train specialists in Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS) — a safe, effective, and very low-cost procedure to cure cataract blindness.
The MSICS simulator is a high-quality, high-fidelity virtual reality training simulator. It can provide surgical training for over 249 types of errors, complications and challenges that surgeons may face in the operating room during live cataract surgery. Its design provides for a limitless number of ‘eyes’ for training with unparalleled visual realism and tactile feel.
It provides a ‘live’ surgical experience about all pre-existing conditions all complications for the trainees and instructors. It might replace traditional MSICS training, which till now was performed on live patients with associated risks.
“HelpMeSee supports the highest quality cataract surgery at a cost of no more than US$50 anywhere in the world,” said Mohan Jacob Thazhathu, President & CEO, HelpMeSee. “Access to affordable, high-quality surgery restores the life and dignity of every person suffering from cataract blindness,” he added.
Reaching out to the community through smartphone apps
HelpMeSee recently launched a partnership with HelpAge India to tackle cataract blindness across the country. It aims at providing training to 30,000 MSICS specialists (mostly women) globally to ensure that blindness from cataract is eliminated. The campaign has also set up a community-based mobilization monitoring system through a GIS-GPS app to empower community health workers to map patient locations and connect them to partner surgeons.
HelpMeSee has formulated a unique and an all-round strategy for its India campaign. Besides training doctors on its MCICS simulator, it has a cloud-based surgical reporting system to support quality assurance of all operations. Once a patient is discharged, it has a comprehensive patient follow-up and patient care system. To provide safe care, HelpMeSee has also developed a pre-sterilized, single-use surgical kit to minimize the risk of infection and enable surgical specialists to work in the most remote areas.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 20 million people who are blind due to cataract. It is estimated that India accounts for the largest number of blind people in the world with over 20 per cent of the global blind people in India alone. Cataracts are also the leading cause of road accidents in India, according to Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Blindness from cataract creates an enormous burden on families, care-givers, communities and the world. It results in very poor quality of life, reduces life expectancy, and causes huge losses in economic productivity, estimated to be as much as $1 trillion in lost GDP globally every year.
To tackle the problem of blindness in Indian society, the Government of India started the National Programme for Control of Blindness in 1976, with the aim of reducing the prevalence of blindness from 1.4% to 0.3%.
Venkat Sambandhamoorthy, Chief of Campaign and Field Operations, says the HelpMeSee mission intends to align itself with the Government of India’s vision to make the country a cataract-backlog free zone and cure cataract blindness in every district of the country. He says,
“HelpMeSee will support the Central Government in all possible ways to make the campaign of cataract backlog eradication a success.”