Product Feature > Low-cost self-diagnosis tool for rural India
Designers at Honeywell Technology Solutions in Bangalore, Ankur Sardana (NID) and Parag Trivedi (IDC), have created a self-diagnosis tool for people living in rural India. The design is simple, efficient, made with recycled materials to keep costs low, and aims to empower patients and help doctors by aiding patients to accurately identify their symptoms. In conversation with Ankur Sardana on why he and Parag created the tool and the role it seeks to play in the accurate diagnosis and efficient recovery of patients all over India.
– In conversation with Ankur Sardana –
Indian By Design: What prompted Parag and you to create this tool? What is the prevailing condition of patients in rural areas?
Ankur: 1. Lack of understanding of disease symptoms by rural dwellers – Healthcare has not been a priority of rural dwellers and they have been used to taking ‘over the counter drugs’ or getting quick relief in the form of a steroid injection from the local URMP (Unregistered Medical Practitioner – people without a formal degree in medicine). Though this is an immediate solution, it is usually not a correct one, the disease symptoms resurface and then the patient is rushed to a proper RMP (Registered Medical practitioner – a qualified doctor) in the city, who now has to administer an emergency case where it could have been a case of a normal diagnosis. What is can clearly see lacking, is the awareness about most diseases and the knowledge to differentiate between a normal fever like influenza from a critical one like dengue. Also, many diseases like PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease), UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) in women are not treated because of sheer ignorance of people.
2. Lack of planning/information for a visit to a city doctor by rural dwellers – Even after the patient/patient’s family realizes the need to visit an RMP, they are unaware of the kind of doctor (speciality) they should be meeting and the kind of diagnostic tests that might need to be done. What amount of money they should be carrying, should they be taking anyone along, how many days it might take. etc. This information could help them prepare in terms of planning the duration of their stay and expenses that might be incurred.
3. Large queues at clinics (nearby rural areas) leading to inefficient medical treatment – At the clinics of general practitioners in the cities near rural areas, the patients numbers vary from 50-300 patients in a day. This does not leave the doctor much time to spend with each patient to explain his disease or advice him on treatment. The time is usually spent in asking symptoms quickly and prescribing medication. There is always a risk of doctors asking only the obvious symptoms and missing out on some critical symptoms due to lack of time.
Indian By Design: How does the self-diagnosis tool work?
Ankur: This is a mechanical self-diagnosis tool aimed to capture symptoms of patients in rural India and provide them basic information about their disease. It helps them decide the right time to go to a qualified doctor and avoid potentially dangerous self-medication. The tool consists of a set of rings (symptoms), a disease chart and other information. Each ring has a set of symptoms. The patient rotates the rings (starting from the smallest) and chooses their symptoms by bringing them in one line, below the marker. Each symptom has a number printed on it. The user maps the disease code on the chart, and the chart provides tentative results: disease name, severity, next steps, diagnostic tests required to confirm the disease, the particular specialty of doctor they should see, and contact information for doctors and hospitals.
Indian By Design: How did you research your diagnosis and verify the data on it?
Ankur: The first step was to identify the top infectious diseases across rural India (25). For this mainly data was gathered from consulting physicians from the cities (near to villages) and doctors at PHCs and CHCs. Symptoms were discussed again with (MD Medicine) doctors.
Indian By Design: How will it be dispensed? Through the chemist or the doctor? How did you get the doctors to buy in into the tool? Did they have any reservations?
Ankur: The medium of distribution has not been finalized. It has to be a part of the larger system level implementation. We had a doctor working with us on the project for the constant feedback. Also, the information was verified and collected from doctors from various areas where we went for the study.
Yes, there are reservations, but the fact that we are not trying to replace doctors but trying to send the patients to doctors at the right time helps. And also the diseases chosen are the ones which have more symptomatic treatment, attempt to include other serious ailments has not been made.
Indian By Design: Will you be translating it into various Indian languages so that people can comprehend it and what about those that can’t read?
Ankur: Yes, the tool has been translated into Marathi, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi. You are right about the illiteracy part, that’s the biggest problem of the tool. We did try one prototype without text and bigger graphics but since that could be a little dangerous if wrongly interpreted, we have stuck to text + image, maybe better graphics could still help make this without text.
Indian By Design: Where has it been tested so far? How has the response been?
Ankur: In its present form it has not been tested on a large-scale. Mostly we have taken feedback from villagers. The educated villagers usually become excited as they understand that they would get empowered if they have some idea of what disease they have.
What we have tested in the field (in UP) is a variant in which there are no results, just collection of symptoms. This is a part of (kiosk based) healthcare program where while waiting to meet the doctor, the patients in the queue are selecting their symptoms, to save time when they reach the doctor.
The results have been mixed. Literacy is the biggest problem we face. Also, this has to be selectively given (not all diseases are covered). This is new mode, so needs a learning curve.
Indian By Design: How much does it cost you to make one of these?
Ankur: For UP testing, we are using waste PVC pipes for a cylindrical version of the tool so the cost is just of the stickers. The present form can also be made by cheap card board, so the cost factor will be taken care of.
Indian By Design: How do people address it? Have you branded it?
Ankur: No we are yet to brand it.
Indian By Design: This seems like a good tool for Urban India as well with rising medical expenses and working couples wanting to save time. Any reason that you’re not looking at the cities?
Ankur: Precisely. We are looking at cutting the queues, empowering urban patients and so on, in fact that is the roadmap as we move on.
< Parag Trivedi is currently a Team Leader on the Design Innovation Team. Ankur Sardana is a Sr. Designer. Both are employed by Honeywell Technology Solutions, Bangalore, India. If you wish to get in touch with them, write to ankur.sardana(at)gmail.com or ankur.sardana(at)honeywell.com >
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Tags: Ankur Sardana, Bangalore, Honeywell Technology Solutions, Low Cost Self Diagnosis Tool, Parag Trivedi, Rural india