Selling consultations online

Innovations prize winner enters a new market

Aidan Hanratty

Posted: Friday, December 6, 2019

Julien Buratto, winner of the 2019 ESCRS Practice Management and Development Innovation Competition
Sometimes inspiration can come from the strangest places. Julien Buratto met a grandmother who lived near him who was looking after her daughter’s children in a playground. Distracted for a moment, she lost sight of her grandson and entered panic mode, thinking of every possible negative outcome. He was still playing happily, but his grandmother was shaken. It was later determined that she had cataract, for which she had a successful surgery.

Speaking at the ESCRS Practice Management and Development Programme at the 37th Congress of the ESCRS in Paris, France, Buratto, Operation Manager at the Neovision Cliniche Oculistiche, Milan, Italy, described a situation where many grandparents look after their grandchildren while their own children work. The New York Times calls this “intensive grandparenting”: “It refers not to a particular number of hours, but to a commitment to providing regular child care, often accompanied by housekeeping or other tasks,” wrote intensive grandparent Paula Span in June 2019.

Buratto then cited a statistic that in Italy, 47 children are injured every day by television tip-overs. Some 72% of emergency department visits due to these tip-overs are by children younger than five years old.

With failing eyesight a potential risk for lost or injured children, it is imperative that older family members get adequate eye care. But who is taking care of the grandparents? Buratto said that it’s not as simple as suggesting to grandparents that they should see a doctor. Instead, he and his team at the Neovision clinic wanted to provide a service that was: easy to buy and easy to pay; easy to book; one that should be a cuddle, not a military order; and that should look serious and professional.

They developed a packet that included a card with vision and cataract information as well as a phone number to make a consultation – since those of the baby boomer generation are more likely to want to speak to a real person, rather than going online to make appointments. They then sold this online at

Citing pioneering research scientist Everett Rogers and his diffusion of innovations theory – which broke people down into the categories of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards – Buratto noted that the Neovision clinic was the first to provide a medical service on Amazon. Stories about the package went viral in Italy, with the Italian Federazione Nazionale degli Ordini dei Medici Chirurghi e degli Odontoiatri (the professional body for the medical profession) summoning the practice for further information about their sales.

Buratto was keen to stress that the packet, which includes the price of a consultation, is not discounted. It’s not their goal to drive down prices, but rather to encourage people to care for their loved ones. “Medicine is not something that is frozen and cold, it must be sensitive to people’s emotions,” he said.

With almost half the audience vote, this project was the clear winner of the Inaugural Innovation Prize, which came with a €1,500 bursary to attend the 38th Congress of the ESCRS in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in October 2020.

Julien Buratto:

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