Biosense, a Mumbai-based medical technology organization has developed a non-invasive anaemia screening tool called ToucHB. It helps measure haemoglobin levels in the patient’s blood without the need for extracting blood or pricking the patient with a needle.
ToucHB works on the principle of quantifying conjunctival pallor. It is a battery-operated, hand-held, and needle-free device that gives instant readings.
One has to place ToucHB on the right eye and pull the lower eyelid. It takes the image and then analyses the pictures to quantify the conjunctival pallor, which is basically the paleness of the skin and mucous membranes, caused due to the reduced amount of oxyhaemoglobin in the blood. The aim of Biosense is to equip health workers in villages who do not have access to expensive machines, so they can diagnose anaemia at the point of care. The device is also linked to a smartphone via Bluetooth, on which all the data is directly saved and can be mailed or messaged to the patients if required.
The initial version of the device worked on plethysmography. It had a probe that patients had to wear on a finger.
The light-emitting diodes inside the probe shone light through the nail and a photodiode on the other end used to interpret the absorption patterns of the light to give instant readings.
Set up in 2008 by Myshkin Ingawale and his friend Dr. Abhishek Sen, Biosense is working to provide affordable healthcare to all. Myshkin is an engineer with a Ph.D. degree in Management Information Systems from IIM-Calcutta and Dr. Abhishek has a background in biomedical engineering from IIT Bombay. They set up the organization after an incident in Parole, a city located near Mumbai, where Abhishek was interning at the time. A pregnant woman and her child lost their lives because of post-partum haemorrhage cause by anaemia, the same day on which Myshkin went to meet Abhishek.
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Over the period of his internship, he had also noticed the prevalence of anaemia, an easily preventable disease that leads to the deaths of women and children in villages just because it is not diagnosed in time.
Anaemia a condition in which the number of red blood cells, or their oxygen carrying capacity, is not enough to meet the daily needs for the healthy operation of a body. And one of the most common causes of the condition is iron deficiency. According to WHO standards, any pregnant woman with a haemoglobin level of less than 11 grams per decilitre of blood is anaemic. According to a study by Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), 50 percent of India’s pregnant women are anaemic, which increases the risk of maternal mortality.
With an engineer friend and three other doctors including Abhishek, Myshkin came up with ToucHB after several trials.
It was launched about four years ago, and is being used in over 250 centres in 2,000 villages across three states. In 2012, Myshkin received the Anjani Mashelkar Inclusive Innovation Award, which recognizes and rewards innovators who develop solutions for the underprivileged in the society.