Coronavirus: This Hyderabad startup aims to prescreen COVID-19 patients by analysing cough sounds
For three months now, India has been fighting against the coronavirus pandemic through innovation. Amid exhausting medical resources, several companies are developing solutions to test and treat patients, while many of them are focussing on developing prescreening solutions to identify the set of people who need to take RT-PCR tests.
As the COVID-19 symptoms include pneumonia-like symptoms, prescreening becomes imperative so as to direct the resources to people who are in much need of them.
On that account, Hyderabad-based startup Salcit Technologies has joined hands with IT company Zensark Technologies to solve the issue of prescreening of COVID-19 patients.
Salcit Technologies has been using audiometric technology to detect respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) via cough sounds, and make functionalities of Spirometry available anywhere, anytime. The solution was also granted an Indian patent in 2019.
Together with Zensark, the startup repurposed its mobile application named kAs which uses artificial intelligence to analyse the coughing sounds of the patients through audiometric technology. The product was updated and launched in April 2020 to prescreen the patients for COVID-19 infection, based on the WHO guidelines through coughing sounds.
How does it work
Speaking to YourStory, Salcit Technologies’ Founder Narayan Rao Sripada, explained that users need to download the app on their phone.
“Users will have to answer a few related questions such as if they or their family had been abroad, their body temperature, preempting health conditions, etc., following which, users will need to cough near their mobile mic.” Further, the application will also allow users to regularly monitor themselves and keep a check on their risk score trends, he added.
Salcit’s application is powered by its core AI product Swasa, a community data collection and analysing platform. The data of people using kAs application is sent to the Swasa platform where it is analysed by healthcare professionals where users are provided with a risk score ranging between one and 10. The platform also allows users to keep track of the risk trends in a particular area, the founder added.
According to Venkat Yechuri from the Zensark leadership team, the idea is to prescreen and prioritise the PCR test. He also explained that the PCR tests can be done once and the results may come negative. However, the patients may contract the disease after their tests. The kAs solution allows users to monitor their risk score regularly and go on for their PCR tests depending on the risk.
Both Narayan and Venkat said that the technology has been under clinical trials at the Apollo Research and Innovation in Hyderabad.
“It is already getting integrated by one health service provider in India, and one in Australia. They are likely to make it available to their customers in about a week's time,” Narayan said. However, he declined to reveal the names of the health service providers.
Speaking about the future plans, Narayan said that the startup is now looking to get the required regulatory compliances in India, Canada, and other countries, for commercialising the technology to ensure that the solution reaches all.
“We will also start focussing on clinical studies on large data sets and specific exceptional cases first, to address a variety of use cases in the life cycle of respiratory health,” Narayan added.
According to him, the startup currently competes with, Deep Breeze Ltd., Respiri, and iSonea Ltd. in this space.