Doctors can now diagnose heart disorders with a simple one-touch operation on a small, handheld device called the MAC i.
Within minutes, the machine conducts and prints results of an ECG — short for electrocardiogram — used to measure the heart’s electrical activity and evaluate heart problems such as heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms and heart failure.
Developed at General Electric (GE) Healthcare’s R&D centre in Bangalore as part of the company’s “reverse innovation” strategy to rapidly accelerate growth in low-end emerging markets, the MAC i costs just Rs 25,000.
The device brings down the cost of an ECG test to Rs 9, as compared to Rs 300 it costs in most private hospitals in India.
“Any para-health staff or physician can use the MAC i anywhere with just a few minutes of training,” said V. Raja, president and CEO, GE Healthcare, South Asia.
GE is one of the multinationals reversing their traditional business models by shifting from developing high-end products to adapting them for emerging markets and developing local technologies, which are then distributed globally.
“As part of GE Healthcare’s Rs 28,000-crore Healthy Imagination, global initiative project, we are developing at least 100 innovations that will reduce the cost of procedure, increase access and improve quality,” said Raja.
With close to 70 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people living in villages and 80 per cent of doctors clustered in and around urban areas, rural areas require innovative medical solutions. “Affordable technology without frills has helped us increase the number of free camps in villages from two to six times a week, reaching one lakh (100,000) people a year,” said Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman, Global Health, which runs Medanta – The Medicity in Gurgaon.
CX 50, a Philips mobile echocardiography device, for instance, helps diagnose rheumatic heart disease early enough for it to be treated using penicillin. “If diagnosed late, it needs valve replacement,” said Dr Trehan.
It’s not just the private sector that is taking advantage of the new affordable technology. The Centre’s efforts to reduce neonatal deaths that constitute 45 per cent of India’s under-five mortality — under the Navjat Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, which trains health workers in basic new-born care and resuscitation — have got a boost with innovations such as the Lullaby Incubator XP and Lullaby Incubator TR. Designed for neonatal care in semi-urban and rural clinics and during transport, these easy-to-use incubators are priced 70 per cent lower than the average price of current warmers.
“Under the National Rural Health Mission, some states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have already installed basic stabilisation units and incubators at some community and primary health centres to provide specialised care,” said a health ministry official. “We plan to expand it to train all health workers to ensure newborn care goes beyond home-based care.”
Efforts such as these are showing impact. Infant mortality in the country has dropped from 58 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 53 per 1,000 live births in 2009, data from the Sample Registration System, shows.
The Apollo group’s telemedicine initiative helps it reach out to people in 200 centres in small towns and villages. “Our network of telemedicine centres and mobile vans with uplinking facilities and basic ECG and X-ray machines help in instant diagnosis, online consultation and referrals,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo Hospitals, which run 46 hospitals, including a 50-bed charity one at Aragonda village in Andhra Pradesh.