Iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) is a significant health crisis for India – especially among women, half of who suffer from anaemia. Anaemia during pregnancy can exacerbate maternal and child mortality. Even if children of severely anaemic mothers survive, they could suffer from abnormalities, premature deaths, and low birth weight. The paradox is that though anaemia can be diagnosed and treated relatively easily; very often patient monitoring turns out to be the most difficult task.
It is recommended that pregnant women get an Hb check done every 3 months during pregnancy. Unfortunately, some patients may live at a distance of up to 15 miles from a primary health centre. Travelling this distance is not only uncomfortable for them; it also leads to the loss of one day’s wages. The invasive method of pricking the finger to draw blood is also an unpleasant experience. There are many devices in the market that may be used to measure blood Hb; however, they all present some challenge or the other. Most involve pricking the skin and are high cost – up to $1 per test – and some devices lack portability, which is critical in treating rural populace.
Myshkin Ingawale, an IIM Calcutta alumnus, and his peers, including trained doctor Abhishek Sen came face to face with these concerns at primary healthcare centres. That’s when they resolved to do something about it. They invented a handheld, non-invasive device to measure blood Hb, christened ToucHB. This invention went through as many as 32 iterations before they were satisfied with its performance.
Over the years, ToucHB has evolved – the initial version worked on plethysmography using a probe that patients had to wear on a finger. This portable, battery operated device could produce an on-the-spot reading, without a prick. The patient simply had to place her finger in the clip or probe, and the readings are available within 60 seconds! It worked using optical technique photoplethysmography (PPG), where light of different wavelengths is shone through skin tissue.
In its latest version, ToucHB is placed on the right eye to capture an image. The images are then analysed to quantify the conjunctival pallor, which is the paleness of the skin and mucous membranes caused due to the reduced amount of oxyhaemoglobin in the blood. It is a simple, inexpensive, painless and non-invasive detector for anaemia, and requires no needles and no pricking. The haemoglobin test result displayed in about one minute. The portable device weighs less than 300 grams and follows a simple three step testing process. It is also affordable & reliable with no recurrent or hidden costs.
In the financial year 2019-20, Biosense products collectively diagnosed or screened around 900,000 patients across India. It has proven to be a game changer in primary health settings and screening programmes.
Myshkin is the Co-founder of Biosense Technologies. An electrical engineer by training, his area of interest is affordable diagnostics.
Abhishek is the co-founder at Biosense Technologies. He has obtained bioengineering and medical degrees.
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