Acculi Labs levels playing field for rural India with affordable healthcare and medical insurance
The IBM Watson-powered Lyfas is an ECG device that enables doctors to measure required parameters and also do real-time and cloud-based analysis of data.
Rupam Das' father succumbed to a heart attack in 2007 despite assurances given by his doctors that he would make it. As a result of his father's death, Rupam plunged headlong into learning more about ECGs or electrocardiograms, which is a test done to check electrical activity in one's heart—and other heart studies. This eventually led him to develop several algorithms for computer-aided diagnosis of the ECG signal.
In 2016, RedHat Linux conducted the CodeHealthy contest, and Rupam, who combined all the algorithms into an analytical platform called Hrydyalysis, won it. This recognition bolstered the confidence he had in his pursuit and he built an early prototype ECG acquisition device.
Good response from users, doctors and corporates motivated Rupam to start a venture with his friends, Praveen Ramamurthy and Moumita Das. Acculi Labs came to be established in May 2017.
Their product, which is platform-centric rather than a hardcore medical application, is called Lyfas. An affordable and portable single-lead ECG device with a biosignal processing, analysis and streaming platform, Lyfas is capable of extracting multiple parameters, streaming the data live to doctors, and also performs real-time and cloud-based analysis.
The device can also acquire pulse signal and then combine it with data to derive blood pressure and non-invasive blood sugar readings, and respiratory signal, among other things. It is also linked to fintech applications for easy and efficient medical underwriting. Rupam explains,
“Taking a cue from this real-world adaptation of the imaging devices, we have built a single-lead ECG system that contains three signal acquisition points. Ours is the first single-lead ECG that can accurately diagnose various cardio-vascular diseases through machine learning usage.”
Lyfas is a multi-platform device and has input capabilities for special use cases— sportsmen, diabetics and pregnant women. The product is able to achieve this through integration with specialised platforms like Firmware, Edge, cloud and Watson AI. Based on the data collected, it offers differentiated solutions for each use case.
Lyfas also integrates ambulatory monitoring, which is a class of ECG that enables a doctor to remotely monitor live the ECG of a person without loss of temporal or quantitative precision.
Today, the medical devices sector is an overcrowded space, with plenty of startups jostling around for attention and funding. Rupam bootstrapped his dream project with an initial capital of Rs 25 lakh that he rustled up from his previous venture, Integrated Ideas.
Initially, the task of finding the expertise, PCB, clinical validation and iteration (which involves lot of time) posed huge challenges for them. However, winning prize money at a couple of hackathons brought relief in the form of good working revenue.
“We also started selling initial devices to small practitioners and academic researchers, which gave us some fund to work with. Though we have no investment yet from any other entity, we are managing the finance of the company through pre-orders, sales, platform consultancy and so on,” says Rupam.
The process of prototyping the product required experimenting with multiple platforms, like MSP 430, Arduino, ESP12E, STM32, PIC, Intel Curie, Intel Edison, Raspberry Pi and, finally, after analysing speed, power consumption, CPU processing capability, ease of coding, they built the architecture. After several iterations and the PCB design-redesign phase they could finally produce their first product with 3D printing.
Leveraging IBM’s Bluemix and Watson IoT platform
While Lyfas has been tested in platforms like IBM Bluemix, Azure, Heroku and Google Cloud, Bluemix was considered the most compatible. Using the Bluemix platform like DataScience Experience (DSX), the startup could easily generate the data. IBM has helped the startup with technology stack, technology mentoring, and suggestions for building the product roadmap.
They are selling the early prototype of Lyfas at this moment for Rs 4,999. However, Rupam says the final cost will be more affordable compared to the devices of similar specs that are available in the market and will come with much more accuracy in diagnosis and features.
A fintech approach
Medical underwriting is an expensive process for insurance companies with cost implications of about Rs 4,000 per underwriting. High premium insurances needs mandatory underwriting and Mill Cardio, ECG, blood sugar, blood pressure are major tests undertaken.
With 80 crore Indians living in villages, offering term insurance has been one of the major roadblocks of the insurance industry. Rupam says that Lyfas’s solutions enable easy identification of people with history of substance abuse, detection of blood sugar and blood pressure level with a single device, which is connected to cloud. The results are then analysed through analytical platform and underwriting automatically gets automated. The startup is currently working with HDFC Life and ICICI Prudential.
The startup is focussed on B2B2C where they are working with various corporations to provide them a solution that is tailor-made for their need. The key avenue to earn money is the subscription and usage of APIs and the sale of device. Since the product is still in the prototype stage, the price is yet to be finalised. Rupam, however, notes that it will be much lower than the market price.
Avenues to serve rural India
Given their core focus on rural healthcare, Acculi Labs has collaborated with NGOs, medical practitioners in rural areas, CSR projects, vaidyas and dais in villages to spread the word on the usage and validation of the device. Lyfas helps medical insurance companies extend health insurance cover to people in rural areas with a cloud-based technology. With most of the work done by external agencies, as of now, their focus is only on Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The startup is working with a Kalburgi based organization called Swabhiman Janata Sangh who conducts rural health checks and works for rural woman empowerment schemes. They will shortly also collaborate with a health NGO groups managed by doctors who conducts monthly health check.
“The product at the moment is still in the testing phase. We should be finished with the assembling and testing process by another month, and would thereafter apply for Clinical Trials Registry – India (CTRI) registration for clinical trials with over 1,000 users. Our plan is to work with the Government of India for approval as mass healthcare device and, ideally, should be prepared to roll out production for consumer market in another year,” says Rupam.
Website: Lyfas App