Indian startup develops low-cost, portable Dx for developing countries

Swasthya Slate system--Courtesy of Kanav Kahol, swasthyaslate.org

Amid growing demand for portable, low-cost diagnostics, an Indian startup is developing a device that could help reduce costs and improve outcomes for patients in developing countries.

New Delhi native Kanav Kahol and his engineering team created a diagnostic tool, dubbed "Swasthya Slate," that includes 33 tests and runs on artificial-intelligence-based apps to make frontline healthcare and field testing easier, The Washington Post reports. The devices cost $800 per unit and have already been tested in 80 medical labs throughout India, and the latest iteration of the system includes diagnostics for HIV, syphilis and heart rate.

The device performed well in lab studies but could prove most beneficial in remote and rural settings. Kahol and his team deployed the product in Muktsar Punjab, an Indian province, and found that the number of antenatal care visits increased from 0.8 to 4.1 per mother, according to the Post story. In particular, the device's blood-pressure and urine-protein sensors allowed for improved diagnosis of preeclampsia, an often lethal condition which is responsible for 15% of India's maternal mortality.

Before Kahol and his team introduced the device in Muktsar Punjab, only 250 patients were screened for preeclampsia and 8 passed away due to late diagnosis. After the startup deployed its diagnostic tool, 1,000 patients were screened earlier in their pregnancy and 120 were detected to have the condition with no recorded fatalities.

The diagnostic has also picked up national support, as the Indian government started a pilot in March of 4,250 Swasthya Slates in 6 districts in the country's northern states of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the program's launch, antenatal testing times have dropped from 14 days to 45 minutes, and diagnostic tests were all performed in a single clinic rather than at multiple sites, the Post reports.

In high volumes, the Swasthya Slate could be produced for as little as $150 a unit, Kahol told the Post, potentially driving down costs and bringing more devices to patients. And although the company is staying mum on plans for FDA or European approval, Swasthya Slates could eventually allow doctors to diagnose and advise patients remotely through Skype and Facetime, the Post article notes.

- read the Washington Post story

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