In talks with Myshkin, part of the team behind a device that has the potential to change the face of Indian Healthcare
Anaemia. The word doesn’t send a shiver like what AIDS or TB might have done. The common man knows about anaemia and it isn’t considered a fatal disease; it’s just iron deficiency, low hemoglobin levels. But the truth is far away from this; a million people die because of anaemia every year! In India, anaemia contributes to around 40% of maternal deaths annually.
The problem has assumed gargantuan proportions and this necessitates the solution to be ever so powerful. Myshkin Ingwale, a research fellow from IIM-C (Indian Institute of Management Calcutta) and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), has an adamant drive to solve the ‘anaemia problem’.
Visiting Mumbai, his home town during a vacation, Myshkin met his friend Abhishek, who was interning as a doctor at that time. Abhishek was late for the meeting and the reason was something that not only changed the lives of Myshkin and Abhishek, but potentially lives of millions of others. Abhishek was late because of two deaths that he witnessed at Parol, a village a few hours north of Mumbai- a mother and child (at birth) had lost their lives due to anaemia. This shocking issue led to the formation of Biosense.
Biosense is a company that has come up with a device, TouchHB, that’ll put power into the hands of people that make the difference.
The unique Indian case
In rural India, it is not the doctor or clinical authorities that matter most in cases of emergency. The matrons, widely known as ‘asha (hope) workers’, are the ones that make the decision.
Moreover, women in rural parts are reluctant to allow blood to be drawn for carrying out tests which makes the situation extremely difficult to control. Hence, a cheap device which is able to perform the test without drawing blood was needed to solve the problem. It would help the ASHA workers monitor and follow up regularly on the women during their pregnancy and effectively management treatment.
An unwavering desire to breakthrough enabled Myshkin and team to come up with a satisfactory device after 32 iterations! “The device is ready and is currently in the ‘design for manufacturability’ phase,” says Myshkin. “We’ve already conducted pilots but would not be releasing the device commercially until we have finished a study with 1000 patients. It is very important to be on sound methodological ground before letting people put their trust in this technology. ” he adds.
ToucHb is a portable, non-invasive, hemoglobin estimation device that gives instant readings. The device can also have wireless connectivity but that function was given up when cost was pitched up against functionality. “The aim is to carry out a blood test at less than Rs 10 per test” informs Myshkin.
The TouchHB will allow the ‘asha worker’ to move around with this portable device and take appropriate action on the spot without having to go through long processes. There is also an android app that the team has developed, if the readings are needed to be sent across to a central location.
Biosense plans to sell devices to every clinic in India and eradicate deaths due to Anaemia by 2020. Myshkin and the team at Biosense are working on some cutting edge technologies and one could expect some news from them in the coming years. “We’re actually trying to come up with something like the medical Tricorder from Star Trek. Not possible with any technology today, but these are the kind of technologies the future will have” says an ambitious Myshkin and believe me, he’s not kidding.
TouchHB’s can be pre-ordered from May 2012 and more about this ingenious device and the problem of Anaemia on the website.
- Jubin Mehta