In collaboration with a mobile health startup, a design firm and local health clinics, Medtronic is orchestrating improved diagnosis and treatment of ear infections and hearing loss in India. Medtronic is funding a 70,000 patient pilot but sees it as a program that’s both scalable and self-sustaining. Called Shruti, the programs has screened 11,000 ear patients in India and referred many to receive follow-up care from local ENT surgeons. The programs uses community health workers, a smartphone-based otoscope developed by Icarus Design, and a telemedicine platform developed by MIT spinout ClickMedix.
Field workers at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi and Health Management & Research Institute in Hyderabad were trained on a Medtronic-developed screening protocol and on how to use the otoscope to take pictures of the middle ear that they would send, through ClickMedix’s telemedicine platform, to ENT specialists stationed back at the clinic. Those remote specialists can confirm diagnosis and issue treatment. Nurses and health workers are on-hand at the camps to treat small infections or remove wax. For complex cases, they recommend an in-person visit to the hospital for further treatment. “It’s really a social business – it’s not philanthropy,” said Medtronic rep Natalie St. Denis.
The screening process usually takes about three minutes. “The health workers that we’re training see about 200 petients per month,” said Ting Shih, the founder of ClickMedix, which develops mobile health solutions with the goal of bringing affordable and quality health services to under-served populations. “We set up the process, procedure and partnerships, but these programs grow organically on their own without having more support,” Shih said.
What this means
For the people of India, it means expanded access to affordable care. It gives ClickMedix and Icarus an avenue to distribute their products in developing countries, and local ENT specialists the opportunity to treat more patients. Meanwhile it expands Medtronic’s presence in India, a key market for the company. For other companies looking at India, the key message is that success is not just about superior or even appropriate products. You need to create and nurture an appropriate ecosystem that includes third parties, patients and providers.