Four years ago, Rajat Jain (25), a resident of Dehradun, Uttaranchal lost one of his friends to cardiac arrest. He says that while this tragedy was sudden, it also made him realise this was not the first time he witnessed someone close to him pass away owing to a cardiac abnormality.
According to a WHO report in 2016, 17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
“So many people have lost their lives to heart attacks because of non-availability of monitoring equipment, no routine monitoring, lack of routine heart check-ups, and no early diagnosis. When we talk about remote areas or hilly regions like Dehradun, the condition is even worse. Patients have to travel at least 40 km to reach the primary healthcare facilities, and there is no ECG facility available in such places. Sometimes, by the time they reach the hospital, they either collapse or suffer further complications during the treatment,” says Rajat Jain, Co-Founder of Dehradun-based Sunfox Technologies.
Using an ECG for preliminary scanning of heart conditions is like using a thermometer to test for fever or checking your blood pressure when you are experiencing hypertension.
To make this device accessible to all healthcare facilities, to improve the last mile connectivity in rural areas, and to prevent sudden deaths like that of his friend this engineering graduate along with four friends developed ‘Spandan’ – a matchbox-sized portable ECG device that can detect heart abnormalities at an early stage.
About the Spandan ECG device
This lightweight device acts as a junction box between your heart and your mobile phone. The Spandan device can be connected to your phone through one wire and has another cable with three electrodes.
These electrodes need to be connected at three points on the patient’s chest to get the heart readings. Within a few seconds, the reading is displayed on the phone through a mobile application named – Spandan ECG, which is available on the android play store.
“The device was developed with a senior advisory board consisting of 10 clinical doctors who helped us create a large database of heart anomalies that a regular ECG can read. It not only detects heart ailments but also classifies 21 different kinds of heart abnormalities with the accuracy of 99.7 per cent in comparison to clinical diagnosis. Within a few seconds of reading, a prognosis is provided on your phone’s screen,” says Rajat adding that to understand the readings, no doctor would be required.
Usually, ECG readings can only be done by a cardiologist, but the Spandan device is equipped with smart algorithms to interpret abnormalities, and the readings are broken down into easier terms and the results will display the results in three different colours on the screen. Red means retake the test and visit the nearest doctor as soon as possible. Yellow means there is a heart abnormality present, and green means the vitals are stable.
There are four options on the mobile application which can do different tests to get a proper diagnosis.
- Primary test
- Advanced test
- Live monitoring – like a bed-side ECG machine
- Heart Rate Variability Test which provides a detailed report that can be locally saved on the phone.
The device and the application work on Edge-based AI technology that does not require internet connectivity to function.
“Late 2017 the final prototype of the device was ready and it was tested across five hospitals. The results were as accurate as of that of a medical-grade ECG machine,” says Rajat adding that there are currently 1000 devices deployed across India and it has screened more than 10,000 patients and saved about 140 lives owing to early detection.
Doctor Prashant Patil who runs a clinic named Ashta Vinayak in a remote area of Raigad purchased this device three months ago after seeing an ad about it on Facebook.
He says, “The patients I attend to are rural and tribal people and the nearest hospital with advanced healthcare facilities is located 25 to 30 km away. The device has been very useful to screen patients who come to the clinic and to rule out any heart ailments. I have also used to follow-up on patients with existing heart ailments. Apart from that, when I have to make home visits it is very convenient to carry with me.”
About the startup
Registered in 2016, Sunfox Technologies is a Research and Development organisation that started with four full-time engineers. While developing the Spandan ECG device was their primary goal, the five worked on various third-party innovation projects to raise funds for developing this device.
To understand heart abnormalities and the functioning of an ECG, the team approached various doctors and entrepreneurs to guide them.
The organization was the beneficiary of Startup India, received seed funding from the state government and was also supported by Rajat’s university – Graphic Era University, Dehradun.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)