Each year, billions of dollars are invested in R&D by various global companies to find new cures for ailments. But these advanced medical facilities are out of reach for people from economically weak backgrounds, especially the majority of rural population in India. There is a serious shortage of inexpensive medical care devices designed for use in rural areas. This leads to prevalence of untreated diseases and occurrence of lakhs of avoidable deaths each year.

We found that disease in rural areas was twice that of urban areas. Globally, India ranked among the bottom five countries with the lowest public health spending. According to World Bank, 68% of India’s population lives in its villages; of which more than 50% were living in poverty. As of 2014, 58% of the country’s population was living on less than $3.10 per day. India had 17.5% of the world’s population and was responsible for 21 per cent of the world’s burden of disease.

India had only 7 doctors for 10,000 people. The rural population suffers the most because of this as they don’t have the money to afford proper medical attention in the cities. There is lot of innovation that has improved the detection of ailments in the developed countries. Only the top 10–20% of the rich people in India can only afford this advanced medical care. Till the time that universal healthcare are available in India where everyone has access to insurance, low cost devices are the only option to treat the masses.

Affordable technology needs to penetrate the remote corners of India and empower Primary and Community Health Care Centre’s which is the backbone of the rural health system. You won’t believe that the majority of the India’s 63 million diabetics and 2.5 million cancer patients haven’t been diagnosed yet. Without the latest technology, the rural population will be deprived of simple and early detection of numerous diseases. All the efforts will be wasted, even if technologically advanced healthcare facilities is available as it will out of the common man’s financial reach.

The team members who worked on this project were Guruswamy Revana, Pratima Kumari and Vijay Krishnamurthy. Dr. Praveen Haranath, a doctor at one of the hospitals which partnered for the Devthon also was part of the team from the design to the prototyping stages.

Presenting the prototype at Devthon event

The goal was to create a simple device that can be used by a novice to rapidly diagnose lung capacity. It can be done without appointment with the doctor, while adhering to Indian clinical and health standards.

The prototype is built with inexpensive and readily available components. The core component is a transducer, converts force into electrical voltages.

Prototype during initial stages

The pressure at which an adult blows into our low cost peak flow meter is captured and the relevant digital value is calculated, and is displayed on the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).

This device can be used by patients who areasthmatic, bronchitis affected and chain smokers for rapid diagnosis of the measurable lung capacity. The system consists of a bluetooth module which connects to a mobile phone for data storage. The mobile app facilitates communication between patient and doctor.

This device is able to diagnose limited ailments with its current features. It can be upgraded to allow for advanced features to be added to it keeping the price of the device constant. This will make sure that this device becomes a must have for all primary healthcare centre’s across India. Then this device could become mainstream and will be in high demand for personal use in urban areas.

The device could also have the ability to rapidly diagnose the exact ailment using the data and if required cross check it with a doctor virtually. When this device can be used by a person safely without supervision, there arise numerous possibilities for taking this device to the remotest of areas in the country. This will connect with virtual healthcare to bring down travel and medical costs for the users. Therefore, the device can not only become more user-friendly, but its design has immense scope for improvement.

Healthcare is a right that needs to be available for all. This device can be further improved to monitor the patient’s breathing in case of an emergency. This device also has potential to grow into an integrated monitoring device that could detect and diagnose most or all of the respiratory ailments. Advanced technology is already out there to detect respiratory diseases, but it has be simplified and added to this cost-effective device, thereby reaching millions of Indians.

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Originally Published on April 05, 2016

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