Development of mobile technology tools for cardiovascular disease screening in resource-constrained environments


India is living though a Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) epidemic due to the increase in risk factor prevalence as well as the South Asian genetic predisposition to CVD’s. In 2000 CVD’s caused the loss of 9.2 million years of life in India. Moreover, the incidence of CVD’s may well be underestimated, especially in rural areas; a study in 53 villages in the Godavari region of Andhra Pradesh showed mortality rates due to CVD’s were north of 30%. This issue has to be tackled by both mitigating the consequences and developing strategies to reduce its future incidence.

Up to 50% of CVD deaths in India may be delayed, if not prevented, by appropriate screening, behaviour change and low-cost medication. India is slowly deploying a nation-wide intervention strategy for CVDs but most of the country remains void of any screening or management. Lack of prevention means more people resort to tertiary care; the costs of which are one of the primary reasons why Indians become poor. The National Health Policy Draft 2015 sets ambitious targets for the next decade of healthcare in India. Aside from increasing spending, the key points described in the draft are to create continuity between primary and secondary healthcare, to foster the successful rural and urban community health workers program, to emphasize preventive care and to try to use technology to aid all of these key improvements.

On the technology front, we are developing non-invasive and affordable Mobile Tools that will enable a healthworker to screen for CVD risk in people within her village, to refer people at high risk to secondary points of care and keep track of patient progress.

There are three devices which we are working on which when combined will give a holistic assessment of CVD risk: (1) A digital Stethoscope which listens for abnormal hearts sounds, (2) An external pulse detector which measures Pulse Wave Velocity, a key indicator of Cardiovascular health, (3) A Microwave Doppler Probe which may illicit information about heart muscle function.

I am mostly working on the external pulse detector that measures Pulse Wave Velocity. A recent medical study involving 42 subjects performed at our partner hospital Sengupta Hospitals and Research Institute will help us show how well our devices work. After we have assessed the clinical significance of the results from our devices we will move on to running a pilot study to assess how well healthworkers are able to use our devices.