According to Quartz, millions of Indians have limited to zero access to hospitals or clinical laboratories. Clearly this poses a huge problem for the population, but women especially, and more specifically pregnant women who need vital access to prenatal care. In India, women may have to travel hours simply to have a basic medical test completed. In fact, sadly, due to the lack of medical care, eight women living in Muktsar, a district in southwest Punjab, died of eclampsia in 2011. However, now a new solar-powered diagnostic “slate” has the potential to improve health care. The Swasthya Slate, a telemedicine device created in 2012 by biomedical engineer Kanav Kahol, enabled health care providers in Muktsar to test about 1,000 pregnant women annually for symptoms of eclampsia and other possible pregnancy complications. The device, which can conduct tests, offer treatment ideas and send health information to doctors, was a success even in remote areas lacking electricity.
The Swasthya Slate is an awesome medical diagnostic machine that has a basic android tablet connected to it along with a solar panel that runs the device, so that care providers don’t need to rely on electricity to care for women. Eclampsia is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in India, but in most cases only leads to deaths when left untreated, so clearly, Muktsar health care workers are testing women for this condition first and foremost, looking for signs of high blood pressure. Additionally, the device can also perform tests for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, malaria, dengue, urine protein, and pregnancy.
The device uses disposable strips to assess samples of blood and urine and then the results are transmitted to the attached Android tablet via Bluetooth. Later on, the results are uploaded to a central database via 3G where a physician can download the results from anywhere with an Internet connection. To say this device is an innovative success is an understatement. During the very first year Swasthya Slate was used, health care providers found that around one hundred and twenty women were pre-eclamptic. The difference now is that the women were treated on time and in that year not one women died from eclampsia. The device is still in the pilot stage but we hope it catches on, and fast. With the Slate in hand, it’s possible that midwives or trained community health workers in even the most rural areas would be able to conduct medical tests that could save hundreds of lives a year. “The science that we will get from this data will be spectacular,” says Kahol.”We will create an information-driven health system instead of an intuition-driven system.”
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Lead Image via Reuters//Jayanta Shaw