AI can be leveraged to save 500,000 neonatal yearly deaths with quality fetal monitoring

Remote fetal monitoring is just gaining momentum especially in insurance driven healthcare models of the developed world where one visit entails high cost for the expecting mother. Shantanu Pathak, Co-founder, and CEO of Caremother in an interaction with Express Healthcare talks about leveraging AI in preventing neonatal deaths

What is the current state of the healthcare sector in regards to fetal monitoring?

Currently medical grade fetal monitoring happens at the hospital/clinic. One way expecting mothers are asked to monitor fetal health is by observing fetal movement. Non-stress test (NST) is one of the most widely used technique for antepartum fetal evaluation, and is recommended during routine visit for normal expecting mothers, and weekly twice or more for high-risk pregnancies based on doctor’s evaluation (20-30% of total pregnancies). However, currently NST is only available in clinics and hospitals, and in government health system it is not available at primary health centres (PHCs) in India as of now, even though every year PHCs offer care to more than 20 million mothers in the last mile. Even in hospitals, NST is carried out using cardiotocography (CTG) machines that are expensive, high-maintenance (space, power supply, need thermal paper), not portable and difficult to use by nurses and need gynecologist presence for interpretation. Further, access to these facilities during the pandemic is a challenge. However, regular fetal monitoring during the antenatal period through NST (especially for high risk pregnancies) can avoid conditions such as preterm births and asphyxia that are the most common causes of intrapartum deaths.

Even outside India remote fetal monitoring is just gaining momentum especially in insurance driven healthcare models of the developed world where one visit entails high cost for the expecting mother.

How does the BabyBeat device work and the role of AI in it?

CareMother-Baby Beat is a wireless, portable and clinical grade NST doppler machine, with AI powered auto-interpretation feature and remote connectivity to an expert in real-time. On recommendation of their gynecologist/doctor, mothers who are 28 weeks or beyond, can get the device at their doorstep for home monitoring and the kit contains the BabyBeat doppler with rechargeable batteries, gel pack, belt to hook on the doppler on the belly and a user manual. CareMother app needs to be downloaded by the mother on her mobile and begin using the device by following the simple instructions. NST graph is generated on the app and shared with the doctor remotely. The AI engine auto-interprets 7-8 parameters and these are listed alongside the graph and saves time for the doctor and nurse who would otherwise manually calculate these. In public health, BabyBeat can be used by a nurse or community health worker who is trained to perform and interpret the NST and take appropriate action.  Auto-interpretation assists them in quick decision making and referral.

How will this solution enable tackling neonatal deaths?

With BabyBeat regular NST can now be available at home or clinic, and mothers and primary healthcare providers can track fetal movement and heart rate easily and take action early to avoid stillbirths. Our partner hospitals have been able to avert intrauterine deaths by remotely monitoring mothers and taking timely action based on the NST graphs shared with them. The device is proving highly useful for covid-positive and high-risk pregnancies.

What are its features to address Rural India, Frugality, and Accessibility areas of the Indian healthcare landscape?

Fetal monitoring (non-stress test/Cardiotocography) is not carried out at government primary health centers and sub-centers/health and wellness centers and available only at higher referral centers, leaving out a large number of women without access to fetal monitoring. With BabyBeat NST can be made available everywhere at an affordable price and with no additional infrastructure or human resource requirement. BabyBeat can be easily used by ANMs and medical officers who operate primary health centers and also make regular village level visits. BabyBeat App’s auto-interpretation and colour code can assist them for further referrals. Due to its portability, remote monitoring and rechargeable batteries device is well suited for rural area use.

What are the other innovations that have been invented in the ZS Prize and how the 4-week mentorship program has helped to shape this idea?

ZS PRIZE was launched in October 2020 with the mission of offering affordable, accessible, and innovative healthcare solutions to the Indian and global healthcare segment. The initiative aimed to act as a catalyst for bolstering healthcare innovation using data, analytics, and technology, with the intent of maximizing a significant impact on the Indian healthcare landscape. Additionally, the concepts proposed by the top 8 teams, which include winning healthcare solutions that aim to treat issues such as stuttering, renal dialysis, and quick testing for mosquito-borne infections, are a big step forward in the development of our Indian healthcare ecosystem. The mentorship offered by ZS Prize was tremendously helpful in structuring our pitch and anticipating several questions from the jury, allowing us to be well prepared. In-depth discussions with executives from the industries and sectors we serve aided us in reasoning through specific aspects of our solution’s innovation, price, positioning, and how to promote it while navigating the private and public sectors.

On the potential of millennials to address the pressing issues of the nation?

My partner Aditya Kulkarni and I obtained an in-depth understanding of the healthcare system and challenges in India before setting up CareMother. Starting out in 2015 the company was incubated at SINE IIT Bombay for 3 years and started its commercial operations post incubation with a high-risk pregnancy management solution “AnandiMaa”. The company has continuously evolved and progressed in pregnancy care and now has a suite of products that support healthcare providers and mothers with digital health solutions in the prenatal and postnatal care space. Company’s mission is to create equal opportunities of care for women globally and will march towards women health in the near future.

fetal monitoringneonatal care
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  • ratish tagde

    BabyBeat is a wonderful concept and could be very useful in PHCs in India. We are also in health care.