September , 2020
Improved technology in rural areas during pandemic
19:35 pm

Kuntala Sarkar

The Covid-19 pandemic has left the world shaken. It has been proved that healthcare facilities across the globe need more attention. Though the disease seems to be concentrated in urban centres, the situation in rural areas is even worse. Poor transportation facilities are not allowing many public and private initiatives to run. Many hospital outpatient departments (OPDs) have been closed down and people including senior citizens suffering from chronic ailments like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac issues are not being able to access healthcare institutions as many such institutions have been converted into Covid hospitals. A large number of community healthcare workers are working during the pandemic – offering invaluable services. Better technology solutions are emerging to help in better management of the situation.

iKure is a health management company. They deliver primary health-services by better access to health infrastructure with the help of digital technologies. Their focus is in rural, semi-urban and peri-urban regions of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Nagaland - in low income communities. Their technology solutions have also been implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda and Congo. iKure has collaborated with the McGill University-Canada, the University of Michigan, the Santa Clara University-California and the Aalborg University-Denmark for research purposes.

Technology solutions

Tirumala Santra, Senior Research and Communication Analyst, iKure, told BE, “We have developed a cloud-based platform called the Wireless Health Incident Monitoring System (WHIMS) - designed with an intuitive graphics user interface. It is accompanied with instruments to measure vital statistics of patients. For it to be a more reliable diagnostic tool, iKure created Medic Bags with low-cost POC instruments to measure basic statistics. WHIMS is loaded on a tablet and a trained army of rural health workers are employed to diagnose patients.”

iKure provides technology solutions powered by AI and ML capabilities. The diagnostics is collected using digital health cards integrated with WHIMS and shared in real-time with doctors in hospitals. These health cards can be implemented through iKure for community surveys, for tracking immunisation, for mother and child programmes and for monitoring and combating Covid-19 cases. Talking about tele-medication during the pandemic, Santra said, “Many cannot operate smartphones for tele-consulting with doctors. So, iKure brings in 'Hybrid Telemedicine' - that provides caregivers at the patient’s doorstep.”

Patient’s digital health card

iKure has more than 50,000 beneficiaries for their Digitised Health Card (DHC). The health workers update patient’s data like - BMI, levels of anaemia, blood pressure, sugar levels, nutritional patterns and behavioural patterns on cloud. These get shared with the doctor during consultation. Recently, the central government has announced a unique digital health card which will be introduced soon for better treatment opportunities. This facility can be even availed remotely. Santra commented, “Our proprietary cloud-based platform, WHIMS can be seamlessly integrated with government health cards.”

The rising pandemic and the spread of chronic or non-communicable diseases in India require the preventive healthcare approach to improve the quality of life. In India, 70% of healthcare expenses are from the ‘out of pocket’ expenditure category by individuals and around 7% Indians are driven below poverty every year due to healthcare expenses. The situation in rural India is miserable as 30% of them need to travel over 30 km for acute healthcare needs. Hence, iKure is an alternative to the government-run primary health centres where adequate doctors are not available most of the time. After covering more than 8.2 million people in more than 4,000 villages, they have emerged as an affordable and viable primary healthcare platform for the financially marginalised people of rural India.

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