MUMBAI: A hospital run by a small, century-old Advaita Ashrama on the India-China border is surrounded by the Himalayas on three sides.
It has no permanent staff and doctors though some doctors volunteer around the year spending a few weeks at a time. In case of emergency, the residents in the periphery of the village have to rush to Haridwar – about a day’s journey.
Not anymore. The hospital has now bought a small 3-kg equipment by a World Bank-funded startup A3RMT that not only connects patients with doctors in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities through a live chat but can also perform quick diagnostics with little medical training.
“With this technology the remote doctors are able to monitor the patients all year, in all seasons. The equipment significantly increases the reach and effectiveness of the hospital,” said Swami Ekdevananda at Advaita Ashrama in Uttarakhand.
Meenakshi Mission Hospital & Research Centre uses devices of Neurosynaptic Communications to remotely connect villages of Tamil Nadu to its hospital in Madurai.
Remote medical and diagnostic devices companies such as A3RMT and Neurosynaptic Communications are altering the way medical services are delivered to people in remote locations in India. Both these companies rely heavily on their patented technology to work in low-bandwidth locations in far flung corners of the country.
A3RMT, founded by engineers Shrikant Parikh and Sunil Lakdawala in 2008, has helped treat more than 56,000 patients over 450 locations in India and has saved more than 2,000 lives through emergency intervention. Neurosynaptic Communications, founded by engineers Sameer Sawarkar and Rajeev Kumar in 2003, helped treat about 2,50,000 patients in 2,300 villages last year alone.
India is short of nearly 5,00,000 doctors, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) norm of 1:1,000 population, according to an IndiaSpend’s analysis of government data.
Making the dire situation worse is the fact that more than 80% of the doctors in India are concentrated in urban areas whereas 70% of the population lives in rural areas.
“The interesting thing is none of us are doctors. We are using latest technology to make a meaningful intervention. The common man could be in the most unreachable corner of India – a forest in Chhattisgarh or inside a salt pan land,” said Parikh.
The remote healthcare delivery market, which was valued at $502 million in 2015, will record a CAGR of 20% by 2020, according to analysts at Technavio, a market research firm.
The major drivers of the remote health delivery market in India is the growth of elderly population, lack of doctors and hospital beds and the need for reduction in travel cost and time, it added.
“Our focus is on quality affordable to the last mile. The challenges are lack of bandwidth, lack of awareness and skilled health workers and mainly the inability to pay for healthcare. Many are pushed below the poverty line because of healthcare expenses,” said Sawarkar, who has received funding from Indian Angel Network, HealthQuad and Axilor.
Neurosynaptic Communications and A3RMT trains local health workers and NGO volunteers to operate their devices. The devices, according to them, don’t require intensive training. They have also developed technology in India that transmits high precision images and videos to doctors in limited and flickering data bandwidth.
The devices can conduct tests such as blood pressure, heart beat, lipid test, urine test, haemoglobin, glucose and cholesterol test, wound shots and dozens more. More attachments can be added to the 3-kg machine for specialised tests such as x-rays.
Their customers include the state and local governments, hospital and non-government organisations.
A3RMT uses IBM and Neurosynaptic Communications uses Amazon Web Services to store, analyse and transmit the images and videos to doctors, playing a huge role in the whole tele healthcare delivery.
“There are doctors, specialist coming through mobile, video, face-to-face video conferencing and so on. They need APIs (application programming interface) to connect the information to do them and review it. They need analytics, image recognition and natural language processing,” said Mukul Ma ..