Guest Editorial

The tripod: Industry, patients and physicians

I still remember the awe I felt when I entered the exhibition hall floor at my first Academy meeting, shortly after I began practicing ophthalmology. There were industry booths as far as the eye could see. Not just to your left and right, but vertically, into the sky, too.

At first, I felt that ophthalmology was run by the companies and that the doctors were just the consumers of the giant, corporate machine. My then-administrator seemed to confirm this and told me I shouldn’t bother with the local reps, who he said were there for their own benefit and would just take up my valuable time.


Fast forward some years, and I have come to realize that ophthalmology is essentially a three-legged stool: industry, physicians and patients. Remove or weaken one, and the stool will collapse.

The ultimate goal of ophthalmology is to provide exceptional patient care. To do this, we need physicians to provide that care, with the industry creating the tools to advance that care.

Early in ophthalmology, industry and surgeons worked as a team to develop and further the field. Over time, however, regulation, legislation and litigation have driven a wedge between the two, making collaboration more difficult. The ultimate result is that the patients suffer. Now, fortunately, the pendulum appears to be swinging back.


Ophthalmic innovation is picking up, with new technologies developed and inspired by physicians. Many of these ideas have benefited from the financial assistance of physician-led and -involved venture capital. Ultimately, industry has seen the benefit of promoting technologies that ophthalmologists desire the most for their patients.

This renaissance in development has come from inspired doctors assessing their patients’ ocular needs and inventing unique ways of addressing them. To do this, physician-developers partner with industry to help provide funding for their products and, ultimately, acquire and market their technology.

As for industry, too often it has developed overly complicated, expensive “innovation” only to find the need or market did not exist. Taking the doctors and the patients out of the equation has littered the landscape with orphaned ideas and devices.

But, industry has come to understand that internal development is not necessarily the best or only avenue for technological advancement of the field. In fact, industry has made almost a 180º turn in its embrace of outside development, even with funding in several “build-to-buy” agreements.

So, when you walk down the aisles of the exhibition hall floor at your next meeting, look through all the marketing. Realize that, more than ever, those tools have many of your peers behind them, and they have gone through years of trial and error to better serve our patients.

While forces may try to separate us, our tripod relationship is stronger than it has ever been. OM