Ophthalmology: The post-COVID boom and its impact on skills

Natasha Szombara, Senior Account Manager at FMC Meditech
Natasha Szombara, Senior Account Manager at FMC Meditech

Unless you have been living under a giant rock since early 2020, your life has most likely seen huge change as a result of COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve had to adapt to life as we’ve never known it before; from missed birthdays to cancelled weddings and from home-schooling to working from home, no one could have predicted the level of change we’ve faced. 

Not only have our personal lives been shaken up, but many markets have also been impacted, the healthcare system being one of those. Due to the pressure the NHS has been under since last January, non-urgent surgeries were placed on hold, leaving a list of people waiting for treatment. But now the world has begun to slowly but surely return to some form of normality, many healthcare markets, such as ophthalmology, are beginning to experience a post-COVID boom. 

As people are now able to return to hospitals for procedures such as cataract surgery and trabeculectomy, the NHS is facing a backlog of people whose wait time has been elongated due to the pandemic. These long waiting times for NHS treatment has led to an increase in people opting to go private to receive quicker, premium treatment and in hand, has resulted in a rise of business-to-business sales within the market. 

What does this mean for people working in the ophthalmology market?

Digital-savvy candidates are now more sought after than ever

Alongside trying to navigate the new way of living their personal lives, COVID has meant many professionals have had to adapt to a new way of working. A positive of the pandemic is that communicating has never been easier than it is right now, with a quick video call becoming second nature as face-to-face interaction has been almost impossible in the depths of the national lockdowns. Instead of travelling to that important meeting, you are now able to be sat around the table with your colleagues or clients from the click of a button and with this comes a set of revised skills that are in demand. 

Now that we’re more at one with technology than ever before, employers in the market are keen to utilise this and are searching for people who can reach customers digitally. Virtual meeting technologies such as MS Teams and Zoom have now been integrated into the day-to-day life of a medical sales representative, and with relationship building being at the core of their role, being digitally savvy enough to adapt to different interactions they’re having is desirable. 

A rise in private healthcare sector sales has transformed the skills employers are looking for

As the increase in ophthalmic sales to the private sector is on the rise, sales reps are required to be confident in differentiating between business-to-business sales and those to the NHS. When compared to the NHS sales process, which depends heavily on the value-added and reducing the number of appointments per patient, private sector sales tend to be faster paced.

The ability to easily adapt one’s sales techniques towards premium vendors, and being able to discuss a surgeon’s direct requirements, is now in demand. As a result of this change, candidates who have prior experience selling into the private sector, or have the skills to easily switch between NHS and private sales, are now highly sought after.

What about people working in technical roles?

The increased to both the NHS and private sector has meant the requirement for people to service, maintain and repair equipment has too risen. As employers search for candidates to carry out these roles, the desired skills they are looking for have also been revised as a result of the changes caused by COVID.

Alongside experienced field service engineers, people with remote diagnostic capabilities are in demand. As the ability to physically visit hospitals has lessened, confidence to remotely log onto a system to identify the fault and guide the customer on how to resolve this is well-favoured in the market.

And not forgetting about those in clinical positions…

Employers for clinical roles have also recognised the changes that have come to the ophthalmology market as we begin to emerge on the other side of the pandemic. Very much like sales representative positions, candidates who are experienced in utilising technology to help carry out their jobs are now more desirable than ever.

As it’s still uncertain when coronavirus guidelines will see the definitive end to social distancing, those who are well versed in using technology to host virtual events are favourable. Having people who are able to confidently present online events, such as webinars and product training sessions, allows employers to minimise the need for travelling and meeting with a group of people in person. 

Not only are these people desirable for their ability to easily find their way around an online meeting room, but candidates with clinical backgrounds also play a vital part in supporting new product launches and the increased number of sales to the private sector. Due to this crucial support in the pre- and after-sales processes, clinical specialists who have both a strong technical and clinical understanding of these products are currently highly sought after.

How do you think the post-covid boom has impacted skills in the eye care market?

If you’re in the eye care space and are looking to grow your team in response to the post-COVID boom, get in touch to see how FMC Meditech could help by emailing natasha.szombara@fmctalent.com.