Diagnosing Jaundice by Phone: How ClikJaundice is using mobile technology to empower parents at the BoP
In recent years the Indian health care industry has been growing rapidly; it is expected to become a US $280 billion industry by 2020. However, for low-income people often living in rural areas, limited access to health care continues to be a challenge, especially in the case of jaundice detection for newborns.
Jaundice, a yellow discoloration in a baby’s skin and eyes, affects about half of all newborns globally. In most cases, the condition disappears within a few days after birth. However, if the level of bilirubin – a natural byproduct of decomposing red blood cells that is responsible for causing jaundice – unexpectedly increases, it can cause severe brain damage similar to the type caused by cerebral palsy. As a result, it is important that jaundice be detected and managed properly to preserve long-term newborn health.
Jaundice can be easily cured by placing afflicted infants under a blue light, or monitoring their bilirubin levels via blood tests. But in low-income communities in India, where children are often born at home or in hospitals with limited facilities, jaundice may not be immediately detected. This sometimes has fatal consequences.
Detection within the first two weeks of birth is also challenging. Health care workers often lack the tools for surveillance via blood tests, due to their cost. So they must rely on visual observation. But in some cases a medical facility is simply too far away to warrant the expense of travelling, especially when parents account for the loss of a day’s wages as a result of the travel. Due to these challenges, a baby’s long-term health can be threatened.
Chromatic Mobile Health Technologies Pvt Ltd (CMHT), a high-tech startup, is aiming to change this reality through a new product called ClikJaundice. Developed by Dr. H.M. Shabeer in partnership with the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, ClikJaundice is a mobile phone-based jaundice monitoring technology that is currently in the process of being patented.
The technology empowers the detection and monitoring of jaundice using images of the infant taken via a mobile phone – a device that many low-income families across India already own. Using a pay-per-use model, parents can take photos of their infant with their cell phone camera. For a nominal fee, they can send these images via SMS or email to the analysis hub. At the hub, the signal is analyzed to yield a chromatic signature, which is then compared with the chromatic colour charts supplied to the hubs by CMHT. Based on this evaluation, the diagnosis is then sent back to the parent or the health care worker via SMS.
ClikJaundice has the potential to be extremely cost effective because of its non-invasive nature. It does not require any special skills to operate, nor are there any recurrent costs such as needles or blotting papers. The technology simply enables health care workers and parents to get an objective result that they can use to make important therapeutic decisions.
“Sixty percent of normal babies and seventy percent of preterm babies will have neonatal jaundice,” said Dr. Shabeer. “ClikJaundice will democratize health care as it empowers parents and health workers to detect jaundice using a simple mobile phone and actionable data – something that is possible to do effectively even for low-income people with limited resources.”
CMHT has already conducted pilot testing for ClikJaundice in the Indian cities of Bangalore and Mysore, with 50 images and a detection accuracy rate of 95 percent. CMHT plans to start marketing the technology in low-income markets across India.
In the long term, company representatives expect ClikJaundice will be licensed to pharmaceutical companies across India in a bid to reach parents discharged early from hospitals due to space and cost constraints. CMHT will also work with health workers at the grass roots level through NGOs, rural livelihood societies, and community organizations to spread awareness and encourage adoption of the technology locally.
“Within three years, we aim to make ClikJaundice technology accessible to 75 percent of parents with hospital births and 60 percent of parents with rural at-home births,” said Dr. Shabeer.
CMHT is confident that its easy-to-use technology will ensure that an increased number of neonatal children in India receive adequate treatment for jaundice. By empowering parents in neonatal jaundice detection and monitoring, ClikJaundice is poised to take a large step toward eliminating neonatal health complications as a result of delayed jaundice diagnosis.
Learn more about ClikJaundice by connecting with Dr. Shabeer on the Ennovent Network, a global community of over 4,800 entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and experts working together to accelerate innovations for sustainability in low-income markets. Click here to join.