Meet Veena Moktali, who is making real-time diagnosis of cervical cancer a reality
Even today, health screenings depend on lab tests that give results after four-five days, are very expert-dependent, relatively steep, and have no linked follow-up care regime.
In resource-constrained countries like India especially, this is a grave problem since screening devices, labs, and experts are all limited in number and hence, are expensive.
In rural and semi-urban areas, this problem is magnified because the patients are unwilling to spend time and money on this process, thus resulting in critical health issues remaining undiagnosed. Plugging these holes is Veena Moktali with her products Smart Scope and Net4Medix, a versatile hardware-software duo that enables remote screening of illnesses like diabetes, hemophilia, and cervical cancer, and provides real-time diagnosis for prompt action.
Who is Veena Moktali?
Born to a family of high-fliers – right from academicians, economists, engineers, to sportspersons – Veena Moktali has had an illustrious career in tech.
She worked with Mahindra British Telecom in the UK till the end of 1999, and moved on to the US to work with with Xoriant CorP – unfortunately, right around the time the dotcom bubble had started to burst. She continued to work in the US, however, and signed up for a part-time programme at the SJSU. She eventually moved to India when her husband received an offer to head a startup.
Over the next six years, she worked with a startup as well as with Cognizant. “I found myself restricted to the same kind of problems and solutions. I wanted to design solutions using innovative technologies for problems that were around me. So I decided to break away and start something on my own,” she recounts.
While she was still thinking of a good product idea, she started and scaled a consultancy business with a 40-strong team, and ran it for four years before the idea for Periwinkle took form, in 2013.
The germination of Periwinkle
The basic rubric Koustubh and Veena floated Periwinkle Technologies Pvt. Ltd. with, was creating closed-group communications and data exchange platform. “It took us almost another year to come across a real-world application of this idea, which makes business sense – which was when we found our place in the healthcare market, in early 2015,” she recalls.
They decided to position themselves as the “healthcare communications platform”. In alpha and beta testing modes throughout 2015 and 2016, they experimented with the product, the customer segments, the channels, the pricing models, incorporated advice from industry experts like Dr. Niranjan Khambete and Subhash Bal, roped in partners like Hemophilia Society of Maharashtra (Pune Chapter), the Tata Memorial Center, BIRAC and the NCL Venture Center, to finally create The Smart Scope.
While The Smart Scope is their first product in the hardware line for Cancer Screening, the software system in the background – their web and downloadable mobile apps, that is - is called Net4Medix. It is an AI-enabled multi-specialty IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) platform.
This software connects with the Smart Scope for cancer screening, and also connects with other devices in the market for remote monitoring and screening. “Our model is to have some niche devices of our own but also to partner with other device makers to provide a comprehensive, standard IoMT portfolio,” she reveals.
Here is how the Smart Scope works for cancer screening:
The Net4Medix system sends a reminder to a patient to make a routine visit to the doctor or physician. During the visit, the doctor then uses the Smart Scope to screen the patient in a regular clinic setting and suggest if any further investigation or treatment is needed based on the indicators on the scope. The patient would then receive appropriate follow-up treatment.
Net4Medix also allows human input of parameters and observations specific to each specialty - to make monitoring more accessible, and enable timely detection of problems so that emergencies and disabilities or deaths can be prevented.
So far, this has helped users track their diabetic BSL fluctuations, and receive interventional dosage adjustments. Hemophilia Bleed reports could also be monitored regularly to give primary care advice remotely to the registered patients. To add to this, the Smart Scope is coming into the market to help detect cases of cervical and oral cancer in early precancerous stages, avoiding metastasis.
Where they are headed
The six-member team started with a bang - so far, they have supported over 4500 real patients through more than 40 doctors, and have footed 10 million transactions on their platform.
They are looking to close their first orders in the coming weeks. “LinkedIn has worked as a great medium for us digitally. However, offline, real connects at events and conferences are really what get it off the ground,” she reveals.
Otherwise bootstrapped, they have received two equity-free grants from the BIRAC, with involvement of DBT and MeitY, and equity-free seed funding from Capital First Ltd. through Zone Startups India’s mentorship program, empoWer.
They are readying themselves for the pan-India launch of Smart Scope for cervical and oral cancer screening. “We are looking at key partnerships in the Home Health ecosystem, for research and trials. We’re currently in the process of raising our bridge round,” she says, before signing off.