With the Aloka Vision Programme, ZEISS Vision Care is providing quality primary eye care to patients in underserved regions throughout India. In May 2023 it has reached the milestone of 1,000,000 patients benefiting from the programme and is expanding in Asia. Time to share some insights into the programme.
As a social business, the Aloka Vision Programme continues to grow and achieve greater efficiency and customer satisfaction year after year. To meet the challenge of eye care for all and to realize the global vision of "integrated, people-centered eye care", a closer look at the success factors for impact, sustainability and integration of vision care and ophthalmology is necessary to continue progress.
Aloka has been operational in India since April 2015. The team is based in Bengaluru, Karnataka for all field operations, partner relations, supply chain and programme development. Today it is led by Dr. Premjeeth Moodbidri with a core team of optometrists and back-office staff. It is supported by the Optometry Council of India, students from optometry colleges, Lions Club volunteers, ophthalmologists, health workers and partners: non-governmental organizations committed to promoting clear vision for all.
The entire operation is set up as an independent entity, initiated and supported by ZEISS, but self-governed and working as a partnership network for NGOs, hospitals, and institutions. The Aloka Vision Programme is part of ZEISS' social engagement and social business strategy and has been established to contribute to the sustainability goals of the ZEISS Group, which include a commitment to eye care and public health.
"At the Aloka Vision Programme, we strongly believe that – to avoid unsustainable efforts – attention to effectiveness and efficiency in programme development, learning from each other in the community, people-centered eye care and continuous improvement are essential," says Joachim Kuss, ZEISS Consumer Markets.
Aloka's Building Blocks: Respect, Quality, Efficiency, Partnerships and Customer Satisfaction
The lack of eye care in underserved regions is not due to a lack of eyeglasses, frames or lenses. The reason for the lack of service is an incredible shortage of opticians and optometrists – the professionals who measure eye strength, advise on how to improve vision and ultimately fit consumers with their glasses. In mature markets, there are 10 to 15 opticians per 100,000 people – in Africa or some parts of Asia, it is one or less. This affects rural areas in particular. And it affects BPL people and day laborers with their families in rural areas because their options for finding eye care in their region are very limited and very expensive, considering travel costs, lost income for travel days, and the challenge of finding the right service for their needs.
"After serving more than 1,000,000 patients, we dare to say: Bringing more quality eye and vision care to underserved regions and underserved populations is a solvable challenge," says Dr. Premjeeth Moodbidri, Head of Aloka Vision Programme. What it takes to bring integrated, people-centered eye care and services to underserved regions is the following.
Screening routines, equipment for eye exams and vision testing, lenses, frames, CEF services – all available in good quality and at an affordable cost. To make eye care possible, the question is: either bring the service to the people or bring the people to the service, i.e. vision center or eye clinic. "We believe it is better, cheaper and more effective to bring the service to the people. Instead of bringing thousands of people to a place, bring the place, including experts and equipment, to the people," adds Dr. Moodbidri.
Bringing more quality eye and vision care to underserved regions and underserved populations is a solvable challenge.Dr. Premjeeth Moodbidri
People all over the world deserve respect, quality, education, affordability of services and products and satisfaction with eye care, eyeglasses and medical treatment. This approach, as well as frequent customer surveys, is essential for continuous improvement and to meet the expectations of patients, no matter how low their income. In the Aloka Vision Programme, customer satisfaction is over 98 percent (good or very good), on-time delivery is 100 percent, and compliance (after 8 weeks) is over 77 percent.
Another expression of respect for patients is quality: adherence to eye exam and vision testing standards, staff qualifications and product quality. Any compromise in quality is followed by lower acceptance and compliance with spectacle wear or referral for medical treatment. In addition to the likely disappointment of patients, the consequences of poor quality should affect the efficiency, effectiveness, and impact of the entire programme.
Partnerships are key
Research shows that a significant portion of a programme's effort is spent on awareness, mobilization, infrastructure, and logistics in underserved areas. Joining forces with organizations and teams that are strong in these areas, with the eye care and vision care capabilities of a company like ZEISS and the expert team of Aloka, multiplies the impact for the simple reason that everyone bringing their best to the table dramatically increases efficiency and reduces costs. As is the sharing of practices and experiences to avoid mistakes and make the most of lessons learned and the different expertise of partners.
Clear, healthy vision must last a lifetime. So should eye care. Therefore, each programme should provide frequent and reliable service in the selected region. One-time activities are disappointing to people, not beneficial to public health, and usually a waste of time, money, and acceptance.