Latest innovations, jugaad, and initiatives taken by India's tech ecosystem & leaders to help India flatten the curve and navigate through the Covid-19 impact.
Just a few weeks into the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, India’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure and gaps in the system emerged as a major worry for the government and experts. The coronavirus situation can easily go out of hand if immediate help isn’t available for patients as has been seen in more developed nations as well.
From innovating new products to improving the existing ones, Indian healthtech startups are gaining traction for bringing unique propositions to address some of the challenges faced by the healthcare system such as the shortage of ventilators and beds.
It is worth mentioning that developed countries like Italy and the US failed to tackle the damage wreaked by Covid-19. Both countries have the most number of cases and deaths today and have more hospital beds and ventilators as compared to India. For instance, Italy has around 3.2 beds per 1000 people, while the US has 2.8 beds. India, on the other hand, has less than one bed (0.7) per 1000 people.
The situation is quite similar for ventilators as well. While Italy and the US have 50 and 500 ventilators per 1 Mn persons, India has around 30 of these lifesaving devices. Given the situation and India’s huge population, healthtech and medical devices startups are perhaps the only chance India has to boost this capacity in the short term.
ICU At Home
Day and night, doctors and healthcare professionals are striving to save the lives of thousands, while also risking their own. Regular monitoring of patients is exposing them to the coronavirus, and with not enough personal protective equipment (PPEs) in India, doctors and healthcare workers are particularly susceptible to Covid-19.
In many parts of the world, there have been instances of doctors and medical staff losing their lives to the virus. India is also close to reaching this situation as many doctors have tested positive for coronavirus due to continuous exposure.
Most of these cases have been registered by healthcare professionals working in intensive care units (ICUs). Some of them got infected in quarantine facilities as well. To prevent these professionals, healthtech startups such as Dozee and InnAccel have devised innovative solutions which help them to monitor and treat their patients remotely.
Bengaluru-based Dozee does so by converting normal beds into a mini ICU bed. The startup offers artificial intelligence (AI) enabled sensor sheets which are placed under the patient that needs constant monitoring. The sheet measures vitals such as breath rate, heartbeat, sleep, stress, among other things.
Speaking to Inc42, Dozee cofounder and CEO Mudit Dandwate said that the data is sent to a mobile application which can be accessed by the people close to the patient. Further, a doctor from Dozee’s team also keeps an eye on the reports for every patient on a dashboard in real-time. “The reports provided by Dozee have 98.4% medical-grade accuracy,” he added.
Initially, the product was developed by the company to monitor the health condition of senior citizens. However, in the coronavirus situation, the company is now offering its products to hospitals and other places where people have been kept under quarantine as well.
Also, as the lockdown has imposed severe restrictions on movements, Dozee is also helping doctors to monitor patients that have severe health conditions. It also eliminated the necessity of routine checkups as the reports are generated and shared in real-time. Dandwate said these reports have saved the lives of over 40 people.
Besides real-time monitoring, the AI engine also predicts patterns. For instance, the World Health Organisation has suggested that if the respiration rate goes higher than 30 breaths per minute then it can be a more severe case of coronavirus. “If the rpm of a patient increases from 15 to 30 breaths per minute, then the application sends an alarm signal to the people looking after the patient,” Dandwate added.
The company has already started using the devices for some quarantine centres. In partnership with mattress player Duroflex, Dozer has offered these products to many quarantine centres in Bengaluru. The Rajasthan government has also placed an order with the company. Further, Dozee is also receiving orders from people who have been asked to stay under quarantine or are following the protocols by themselves.
Helping India Breathing Easy
Another startup that has responded swiftly to the shortage of medical equipment and devices is Bengaluru-based InnAccel. The medical device startup has developed SAANS, a proprietary continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) ventilator machine for babies. Siraj Dhanani, CEO and founder of InnAccel, claims that these machines provide ICU-level CPAP at any place. “People can give CPAP to their babies at home, nursing care, or at any other place,” he added.
On similar lines, the company is coming up with a new product, SAANS PRO, which is an upgraded version of SAANS. Dhanani said that this device would be a non-invasive ventilation (NIV) system. This device would be the first layer of ventilation and there is no need to insert a tube inside the throat. Dhanani said a similar device was used by doctors in Italy to provide preliminary support facilities and can replace ventilators for a while.
The device can be operated with the support of an in-built battery with 2 hours backup, compressed gas, or in the absence of all of these a manual mode with the use of a bag valve mask or Ambu bag.
India has around 30 ventilators per 1 Mn people while the US has 500 and Japan has 174. Given the shortage of ventilators in the country, SAANS could help healthcare facilities in India provide timely and necessary support to Covid-19 patients.
As far as the demand for SAANS and other such products are concerned, Dhanani said that the government is focusing on getting personal protective equipment first and will then focus on buying ventilators. “We have started to conduct talks with various stakeholders,” he added.
InnAccel also manufactures VAPCare, an automated closed device for removing highly infectious oral secretions from the patients under ventilation. Dhnanani said that this device clears out the saliva and prevents it from trickling down into lungs.
Without such a device, medical personnel would have to remove the saliva manually, thereby exposing themselves to the virus. So, in cases of Covid-19, the device comes in handy to prevent nurses and other pathological lab and medical staff from contracting the virus.
The startup had started developing VAPCare way back in 2014 with the aim to prevent the exposure to infectious oral secretions and it finally launched the product in 2019. As of now, a third-party manufacturer is manufacturing this device.
Dhanani said that given the Covid-19 situation, the company is looking to place larger orders from its manufacturing partner. “We are already in talks and the facility can manufacture around 1000 VAPCare devices in a month,” he added.
He also noted that the device has been approved by many other international agencies including the US Food And Drug Administration (FDA). The pandemic has brought the limelight on the medical devices market in India, which has been calling for stronger push to boost local manufacturing. With the situation now out in the open, more and more state governments are waking up to the reality that India needs the help of startups to make this happen.
As Dhanani said, “Because of Covid-19, VapCare has garnered strong interest across leading corporate hospitals and medical authorities in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi.”