Periwinkle Technologies’patented technology Smart Scope offers Indian women a simple, single visit digital cervical health examination kit, which is easy to use.With cervical cancer claiming one woman every eight minutes in India,Express Healthcare reviews the journey of founders Koustubh Naik and Veena Moktali as they strategise to achieve their mission of scaling up social impact of digital medtech by expanding India’s cancer screening efforts
India’s healthcare ecosystem has many pain points across the private and public health segments. Of these pain points, cervical cancer is a major concern for India as we lose one woman every eight minutes to cervical cancer.
The good news is that these deaths are preventable, as regular screening and early detection of cervical cancer saves lives. According to various estimates, 40 crore women in India in the age range of 25 to 60 years should be screened every 3-5 years to lower the mortality and morbidity due to cervical cancer.
Wanted: an efficient, accurate gyn-onco screening test
Prevention is always better than cure and with cervical cancer too, screening regularly can help in making the treatments less invasive and less expensive. The question is, what is an effective method, given India’s geographical spread and varying socio-economic realities?
The world is rapidly moving away from Pap smear tests due to their low sensitivity. The newer HPV DNA tests can be used for women above the age of 30+ years. However, these tests are also multi-visit since there is a dependency on a well-equipped lab facility, infrastructure, expert personnel, and transport of samples.
Moreover, these tests are quite expensive and not a feasible solution for the scale and repeated testing needed for India’s population. And finally, after performing an HPV test, a visual test is recommended to do a biopsy and triage or treat.
Experts thus needed an efficient and accurate gyn-onco screening test. The test also needed to make screening for cervical cancer as painless and hassle-free as possible for women in India. This meant reducing the time lost in repeated visits (travel to the lab/hospital and waiting time), out of pocket expenses for multiple tests and treatments as well as loss of wages. All of these factors are deterrents to women taking time out to do the tests.
Thus public healthcare in India needs an efficient, singlevisit, scalable, easy-to-implement, and accurate visual inspection system, with a good balance of sensitivity and specificity, for a cervical cancer screening programme.
Periwinkle solution: Digitalise medtech to scale up social impact
In 2013, two med tech entrepreneurs, Koustubh Naik and Veena Moktali, were scanning India’s healthcare sector for ways to use their engineering and entrepreneurial experience, to make a sizable social impact. They incorporated Periwinkle Technologies in 2013 with the intent of making access to healthcare easier.
Market research introduced the duo to the high morbidity levels due to cervical cancer. Driven by the belief that regular screening can save the lives of over 300,000 women worldwide, the cofounders built a team comprising medical researchers, data scientists, business leaders, technocrats, medical professionals, and innovators.
They developed their healthcare access platform called the “Net4Medix” in 2014 and introduced their first hardware product from the “Smart Scope” family for screening of cervical cancer in 2015. They also built their AI engine in parallel. They work with renowned research institutes and organisations such as Tata Memorial Center, several reputed NGOs and International groups, medical colleges, and hospitals across
Their solution for screening of cvical cancer, the Smart Scope® CX, described as the ‘Single-visit Digital Cervical Health Examination Device for OPD’, combines three components: hardware, software, and AI. The product was commercialized in 2019.
AWS has been a part of their journey since 2015 as their preferred cloud platform, helping their cloud footprint increase steadily over the past decade.
The Periwinkle Technologies team has been the recipient of several grants from DBT BIRAC, MeitY, Social Alpha, and more such schemes. In addition, the product has bagged awards along the way, including the prestigious one from the Startup Grand Challenge under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana from the National Health Authority in 2020. They followed this up with another pat on the back when they won at Maharashtra Startup Week organised by
Government of Maharashtra in 2021. The team has been invited to share their story and experiences at global meets like the Geneva Health Forum in 2020 and 2022, and World Health Assembly 2022.
But the team is not resting on these laurels. The founders reveal that Periwinkle Technologies
is aggressively expanding in all states of India at all levels of public health care and private as well, leveraging the global experience and expertise of the founders and the team.
They are also expanding internationally, looking at the keen interest in the product from several countries. The founders have a few more products in the pipeline and given their track record with the Smart Scope, one hopes they continue to scale up access to affordable cancer diagnostics across India and the globe.