KHARAGPUR, India — Access to quality health care is a critical component in the effort to eliminate poverty. Without it, infant mortality rates are high, preventable diseases become common afflictions and easily curable ailments remain untreated. The poor are left to live diminutive lives, which directly contributes to diminishing educational opportunities and economic capacity, causing a vicious cycle of sustained poverty.
In India, there is currently a health care gap where more than 850 million rural residents, comprising 70 percent of the total population, are cared for by 25 to 30 percent of the doctors. According to the World Health Organization’s 2012 statistics, less than 44 percent of all villages have access to a doctor—a problem which is further compounded by poor monitoring, supply shortages, failing infrastructure and nonattendance by doctors.
Addressing this disparity in the health care system is what iKure Tech Soft and its team aims to accomplish.
“Recognizing this gap, iKure with a unique combination of technology intervention, skills training, and capacity building developed a sustainable health care model that effectively orchestrates the resources in hand and addresses the needs on ground, thus enabling affordable and accessible health care up to the last mile rural population,” according to iKure’s website.
In order to bridge the health care gap, iKure has developed a proprietary software program known as the Wireless Health Incident Monitoring System (WHIMS). WHIMS seamlessly connects patients and health care providers in rural areas with urban hospitals to deliver medical services that were hitherto unavailable to poor urban populations.
A software which has been specifically tailored for use with tablets and smart phones on 2G/3G mobile networks, WHIMS enables doctor and health-workers to remotely access health information for urban patients using an intuitively designed application. With low bandwidth requirements, WHIMS integrates with medical devices such as sphygmomanometers, ECGs, glucometers and phonocardiograms via seamless data transfer.
In this way, WHIMS becomes the virtual bridge that closes the health care gap between urban and rural health care.
To facilitate the use of WHIMS, iKure has setup more than 20 rural health centers across West Bengal and Orissa, where they rigorously train new health workers, often previously unemployed locals, with the use of WHIMS. The health care workers then use WHIMS to interface with the rural doctors and medical devices by helping rural patients take readings for blood pressure, sugar and temperature, weight, height and pulse.
The workers then diagnose patient symptoms using a set of questions which help identify a broad range of medical aliments and issues. These readings are wirelessly logged into the system and help doctors remotely asses and monitor patients. Based on the patient’s results and answers to the test questions, workers can prescribe rudimentary treatments like medicines.
WHIMS has the capacity to collect data, function as a diagnostic module, preform pharmacy management and provide billing and invoice services, effectively making it a virtual doctor.
To date, iKure and WHIMS have catered to more than 13 million rural patients in 110 different villages, profiling 58 diseases. While this is an enormous achievement, there are still several hundred million more rural patients to help. To do so, iKure had to expand its network—this is where the Global Social Benefit Institute Accelerator program comes in.
Each year, the GSBI Accelerator invites and mentors a group of well-established “social enterprises”—non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses which focus on addressing social and environmental issues—to help them address challenges in their business model before showcasing their businesses to potential investors.
By connecting social enterprises like iKure, with established business leaders, the GSBI Accelerator program helps mentor budding companies to overcome problems such as scale. In doing so, the companies can expand their networks faster and more effectively. Larger more efficient networks mean more rural patients are virtually connected to remote medical care, bridging the health gap, saving lives and ending the cycle of sustained poverty.
– Pedram Afshar
Sources: iKure, WHIMS, Samhita, Tech Circle, World Bank Data