In So Many Words is a timely talk with an ophthalmic industry thought leader.
Kalpana Singh is new to the industry of ophthalmology, but she brings with her years of experience managing product lines and product development for companies including Eastman Kodak and DePuy Synthes, a division of Johnson & Johnson. Most recently, she was vice president and general manager of Danaher Corporation’s 3D dental imaging business. She holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Purdue University and a MBA from the University of Rochester. Now the division vice president and business unit manager of Reichert, she leads that long-standing company into its next chapter.
Ophthalmology Management: You were named the head of Reichert last February. What made you decide to switch gears and join the ophthalmology industry?
Ms. Singh: I’ve always enjoyed working in the medical device field, and Reichert has a rich heritage and a strong perception in the market.
I was interested in the ophthalmic field as well. Sight is such a critical sense to every human being, and the ability to impact that through diagnostic tools is fascinating to me.
OM: What experience did you gain from prior jobs that you now bring to Reichert?
KS: My background is in product development and strategy, which at Reichert helps me pave their development pipeline, in terms of what tools we can bring to the industry.
In my experience in the dental industry, from a go-to-market perspective, we reached clinicians through distributors; the ophthalmic industry has a similar distribution model. Also within dental was a similar model in regard to helping clinicians with their tools, but ultimately to help them care for the patient.
At Eastman Kodak, I started in engineering; the idea was to work with scientists to bring new innovative materials and products to market.
My job there was to understand what the needs of the customer were, and to bring those back to the research scientists and work with them to develop technology which met those needs.
Getting into the customer’s mind, understanding those needs and developing products that meet and exceed those needs is something that’s been a constant throughout my career.
OM: Can you share insights into Reichert’s pipeline?
KS: We have a couple of products we’ve brought to market, most recently the Ocular Response Analyzer (ORA).
The ORA G3 was launched in 2015; it has very strong IP and has been featured in several hundred publications. It’s the only device that measures corneal hysteresis, and the aim is to use this to better manage glaucoma.
Right now, the tools out there mainly detect glaucoma after it has happened. We’re focused on earlier detection, to save what we can before it’s lost. With ORA we’re looking to provide this additional information to physicians.
On the refraction side, in 2015 we also launched an autophoroptor, the Phoroptor VRx. With the Phoroptor VRx, we’re looking at trends in the industry, with aging baby boomers and the eye diseases that are becoming more prevalent in that population.
OM: Can you elaborate?
KS: Those boomers are looking for ways to optimize their vision later in life. From that perspective, there will be greater need for care and we want to make that process as efficient and accessible as possible. The Phoroptor VRx helps maximize that efficiency.
OM: The ORA is the only device that provides that measurement; what special considerations are involved in marketing it?
KS: Corneal hysteresis (CH) is about measuring the biomechanical properties of the eye — how well is it able to handle changes of pressure that occur in the eye. That gives an indication as to whether the eye is likely to progress rapidly to glaucoma.
You don’t have to have glaucoma already, it’s an earlier indication as to whether you have it and how quickly it can progress, and that assists in treatment planning. The understanding of hysteresis has advanced quite a bit since the concept was introduced a few years back.
As far as being mainstream, though, we need to do a better job of explaining CH and its place in the world, in terms of affecting glaucoma. There has been a lot of education on the science behind CH and why it’s important.
We’re working with some key opinion leaders to spread that message, in terms of how they have used the ORA and how it’s changed glaucoma management for them.
OM: How much physician input does Reichert use to modify or improve its products?
KS: It’s at the forefront, and also in the middle of discussion for developing ideas and concepts.
At the end of the day, it’s the clinician we’re trying to help and provide tools for. If we don’t understand why they’re using it, we’ve missed the mark.
We try to make sure we understand what needs the market is communicating, and how to find a solution for them.
OM: Reichert has a very long history, which has altered directions a few times. It first appears in the 1800s as a jewelry shop, then becomes a manufacturer of eye-care products: spectacles, toric lenses and so on. It has since created ORA. How do you see Reichert adapting in the future?
KS: We look at parallel industries and trends with how technology is being used and accessed in everyday lives.
For example, in the dental field, they are, in some ways, more advanced in handling data using cloud technology. There, you have a lot of women entering the work force looking for flexibility, and a lot of them act more like contractors, seeing patients in different offices.
Being able to access that clinical information anytime and anywhere is valuable to them. This type of accessibility is also something I could see happening in the ophthalmic industry.
The whole concept of telemedicine is interesting with having access to diagnostic tools that are portable and easily accessible.
The company has always had a history of picking up what’s happening in the environment and applying those ideas to our products. That’s still very much part of our philosophy. OM