A/Prof Catherine Green AO
Synopsis: Two types of innovation, defined as “the use of a new idea or method”, have been
described. The first, sustaining innovation, makes some- thing bigger or better. The second is disruptive innovation, which disrupts the bigger-and-better cycle, bringing to market a product or service that is more affordable and easier to use, allowing a whole new population of con- sumers to access a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with more money or greater skill. The introduction of affordable intraocular lenses for patients in developing countries, as championed by Profes- sor Fred Hollows, is an example of a disruptive innovation that has had a profound impact on eye health globally.
The year 2020 will be remembered for the global disrup- tion caused by a pandemic that that will have ramifica- tions for decades to come. 2020 also marked the culmination of a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight. Despite the global prevalence of blindness falling by 28% in the past 30 years, in 2020, 43.3 million people were blind and 553 million had vision impairment, with evi- dence of significant inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted eye health; however, innovations that address this disruption may present opportunities to improve eye health even after the pandemic is under control.
A systems approach is required, with innovation not only in eye care delivery but in policy, workforce plan- ning and education. Of course, we should promote sus- taining innovations, but also be looking for truly transformative (disruptive) innovations that provide opportunities for improving eye health in ways not pre- viously considered.