A3 Biomed Technologies uses mobiles to get patient's ECG
Mercifully, a technology has emerged that can help establish a link between patient and doctor during this period. Called Cardio-1, this equipment captures ECG signals of the patient and sends it to a number of cardiologists via SMS. The cardiologist concerned can then send back instructions to the attendants as well as make preparation for the patient.
"The idea sprouted in 2006 while watching a demonstration of a prototype that could capture ECG signals and send it to a mobile phone," says Dr Shrikant Parikh. The technology used digital signal processing to capture a 12-lead ECG and transmit it in jpeg image format.
After the demonstration was over, Dr Parikh sat down with Dr Uday B Desai, then head of the Signal Processing and Neutal Networks labs in IIT Mumbai, to work out a tool that could use this technology in cardiology.
The two physicians consequently met Dr Sunil Lakdawala, an IT veteran, and an enterprise was born. A3 Biomed Technologies, as it would be later called, aimed at for 'pervasive care, anytime, anywhere'. But there still was a long way to go. "A whole lot of work was left-from building a software that would clean out the ECG signals, the mobile layer and the surrounding hardware," says Dr Parikh.
The startup was incubated at SINE within IIT Bombay and over the next year, the three invested Rs 25 lakh from their own funds and worked closely with an entire ecosystem of doctors, designers and engineers to understand key requirements. A3 also got a government grant of Rs 50 lakh under the TePP scheme and a soft loan of Rs 40 lakh from the World Bank to fund their research.
In late 2008, the final product emerged: A laptop housed in a metal casing with two wireless broadband modems for net connectivity. The process involves plugging ECG leads from a patient into this device to generate a graph. This ECG is also supplemented with a photograph of the patient, taken from a web camera.
At the click of a button, the product collates the ECG and photograph into one jpeg file and sends it to six cardiologists via SMS as a link. The cardiologist would then check the condition of the patient and provide medical advice, saving valuable time and effort.
The startup team offers two types of installations-within ICU in hospitals and via a helpline number. The latter, a service beings used in central Mumbai, can be accessed by a patient by dialing 1-800-22- HEART for his ECG to be taken and sent right from his home.
The product has been marketed for last one year. "We found out that hospital and medical institutions are capital expenditure unfriendly," rues Dr Lakdawala. Given this the trio developed both a capex and an opex model. In the first system, the company sells the product outright for Rs 2 lakh while in the opex model, the hospital pays at Rs 125-150 per ECG.
So far, the team has installed its product within four hospitals across India but what it is focusing on is tie-ups with large healthcare chains, ambulance chains and pharma majors. "We're in the final stages of talks with a number of hospital chains, rather than approach multiple small hospitals," says Dr Parikh.
Going forward, A3 plans to expand its technology to cover respiratory problems of patients and with the launch of 3G they're also looking at launching a live streaming ECG solution. All this would require nothing short of a mighty heart but then if the trio has proven their might once, they can prove it over and over.