Upon learning this, Indian Engineer Myshkin Ingawale, along with a group of childhood friends comprising three doctors and another engineer, decided to design an easy-to-use and cheap machine that can test for anemia.
Having grown up in cities, Ingawale wasn’t aware of the serious dearth of healthcare resources in rural India. It was only after traveling to Parol, two hours north of Mumbai to see his friend, Dr. Abhishek Sen, that he observed the lack of basic facilities in India’s hinterland. He says of Dr. Sen, “He had seen the problem of undiagnosed anemia day in, day out, which is potentially very simple to diagnose. It is caused by a lack of a molecule called hemoglobin in blood and to check for anemia the patient requires a blood test. However, there simply weren’t enough facilities to give a blood test in those kind of settings.”
There simply weren’t enough facilities to give a blood test in those kind of settings
There are various problems with blood tests in impoverished areas, including the medical wastage, the need for qualified doctors and nurses to carry them out and the risk of infection if done incorrectly. In India, the Asha is the first port of call when it comes to health care, and for many in rural areas the only person they get to see. The Asha is typically an uneducated woman without formal training in medicine and with only a basic understanding of maternal and child health. There are currently about 500,000 Asha throughout the country.
After 32 prototypes and three years testing, Ingawale and his team came up with a simple to use, needleless machine that instantly tells the Asha whether the patient is suffering from Anemia.
They call the machine the ToucHb and it is able to test the patients hemoglobin count, oxygen saturation and heart rate simply by putting their finger into a clip for less than a minute.
Ingawale explains how it works: “It is very similar to a pulse oximeter in that it passes different wavelengths of light through the finger. There is a small ring that goes onto the finger. Light passes through the tissue of the finger and then on the other side of the ring we have sensors that measure how much of the different wavelengths of light are being absorbed and transmitted.”
It passes different wavelengths of light through the finger
Understanding that the amount of hemoglobin in the blood effects how much light will be absorbed or transmitted, it is possible to deduce whether the patient is suffering from anemia or not. When you consider that already existing portable machines require blood tests, the medically trained and can cost up to $1,000 each, the ToucHb is the clear winner when it comes to simplicity and affordability.
They are currently trialing the device at 300 clinics in India and if they are successful Ingawale will start selling the device worldwide. His ambition is that, with the aid of these machines, there won’t be a single death from anemia by 2020.