It’s the stuff good film scripts are made of, minus the song and dance and add plenty of reality checks. Three IIT graduates set out on an ambitious mission to disrupt healthcare with technology and rather than revel in their happy ending, it’s their journey that’s most compelling. Dhilly Babu, Shreyans Gandhi and Arpit Mishra created a health kiosk, borrowed from the banking sector’s ATM concept, hoping to find a way to provide greater access to healthcare for those who need it the most. “We cannot build hospitals in every nook and corner of the country,” Dhilly explains. “Specialist doctors are not ready to work in villages. An eye doctor sitting in rural India is not the solution. No one had cracked this lack of hospitals and doctors issue in a sustainable and scalable way and we knew technology was the answer.” Now, thanks to these three musketeers, you can walk in to a “health ATM” and get a check-up within 5 minutes with an instant report, either in print or via SMS.
The YOLO (yes, you only live once) Health kiosk can screen people, capture health parameters and do basic diagnostic tests, all with a “human touch.” This includes measuring blood pressure, blood glucose, ECG, haemoglobin, lipid profile, BMI, fat, muscle, body temperature and oxygen saturation. The machine can even screen for common communicable diseases such as typhoid, malaria and dengue and lets you video-conference with a doctor.
Dhilli Babu passed out from IIT Mumbai in 2004. He worked at a financial trading firm and later founded Beans and Intellect Financial Technology, a financial analytic company which was acquired by Miles Software in 2013. Soon after the acquisition, Dhilly started planning his next venture. He wanted to enter a sector where technology was still at a nascent stage. “Technology had disrupted retail, banking and many other sectors but it had not affected healthcare in a path-breaking way,” says Dhilly. While looking for medical devices and technology experts, he sought his alma mater biomedical professor for recommendations. The professor introduced Dhilly to his student, Shreyans Gandhi. Shreyans had a BTech in electronics from IIT Mumbai and was pursuing his PhD in biomedical engineering.
The IITians got together and brainstormed on how to solve the accessibility issue in healthcare, unsure what the model would be. After much research and ideation, an ATM-like concept appealed to the duo. “Banks might be few, but lakhs of ATMs are sitting in remote location; 90 percent of the banking services are delivered by ATMs without the need to visit a bank. However, you couldn’t just copy-paste a concept from banking to healthcare. You still had to make it relevant,” says Dhilly. They started assembling a kiosk with various medical devices attached to it. Luckily, Shreyans had five years of experience working with the most novel devices. “During my PHD, I was always experimenting with making new device compact with maximum health parameters,” shares Shreyans. The duo also need a tech expert who could test out the developments. Enter Arpit Mishra, an IIT Kanpur graduate in Computer Science and Engineering, who was working with Nomura, a Japanese Investment Bank.
After a zillion trials and errors, the team rolled out their first prototype in November 2015, installing the health kiosk at Indian Oil Corporation in the Mumbai corporate hub, BKC. In cities, they realised, there were enough hospitals and facilities for primary care. They were mainly dressing preventive care in the metros. In rural India, the kiosks could become the first point of care. Hence, they linked with state governments, hospitals that have a rural reach like Global and Narayana, and CSR foundations. Today, there are 16 YOLO Health kiosks stationed across India (Mumbai- BKC, Thane, Prabhadevi, Bangalore and rural Karnataka, Chattisgarh and West Bengal). In villages, the kiosks are stationed at primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres.
While working in Indian villages, they learned that model was missing the very vital human element of healthcare. “The initial model was to build an automated machine where a patient could just walk in and do tests on his own and consult with the doctor on his own as well,” informs Shreyans. But walk-ins were looking for someone to assist them. Hence, the team decided the machine should be manned by a local person, usually a community health worker or a ASHA worker; someone who understands the culture and dialect of the community, and can communicate effectively. “That person really provides the human touch and the interface between the doctor and patient,” stresses Dhilly.
The final model is not a self-service model; it is an assisted model. For example, if you need to do a blood test, the paramedic pricks your finger, smears the blood on a ready strip, inserts the strip into the YOLO Health kiosk and out comes the processed result, instantly. The kiosk is linked with multiple hospitals so that it gives access to a doctor. If a problem is detected in your processed results, you can video consult with a hospital doctor, who will also have access to your reports. Immediately, you get a feedback or prescription from the kiosk. In villages, based on the prescription, medication is dispatched to patients.
Not only does the kiosk solve the accessibility issue, it is also addresses the affordability problem in healthcare. The kiosk costs about INR 2.5 to 3 lakhs, and the tests costs one-fifth of what you would be charged at a diagnostic centre. Tests are priced between INR 30 to INR 250. You can get your haemoglobin checked for INR 30 and a lipid profile will only cost you INR 250. Plus, the results are extremely reliable and legit. All medical devices in the kiosk are US FDA and CE approved, the gold benchmark for medical devices worldwide.
Dhilly, Shreyans and Arpit dream-come-true would be to have a YOLO Health kiosk installed at every one of the 25,308 PHCs in the country. India has only one doctor for 1,674 people against World Health Organisation minimum standard of 1:1000 doctor-patient ratio. This translates to a shortage of more than one million doctors in India. With doctors migrating abroad and to cities, the dearth is felt even more acutely in rural India. Having these little machines offering “healthcare, any time, anywhere,” that too with a human touch, the grim situation can expect a happy makeover.
This article was put together by Healthcare Executive, Homegrown’s Medical Tech partners and written by Sweta Jalan.