ClikJaundice: Using the Phone to Monitor Jaundice in Newborns

Stuart Frisby via CC

In recent years the Indian healthcare industry has been growing rapidly; it is expected to become a US $280 billion industry by 2020. However, for low-income people often living in rural areas, limited access to healthcare continues to be an ongoing challenge, especially in the case of jaundice detection for newborns.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 07.25.13

Jaundice, a yellow discoloration in a baby’s skin and eyes, affects about one-half of all newborns globally. In most cases, the condition is likely to disappear within a few days after birth. However, if the level of bilirubin – a natural byproduct of decomposing red blood cells which is responsible for causing jaundice – unexpectedly increases, it can cause severe brain damage similar to the type caused by cerebral palsy. As a result, it is important that jaundice is detected and managed properly to preserve long-term newborn health.

For parents in low-income communities in India whose children are often born at home or in hospitals with limited facilities, jaundice however is not immediately detected leading to sometimes fatal consequences.

While jaundice can be easily cured by placing afflicted infants under a blue light or monitoring bilirubin levels via blood tests, often this is not the case in low-income communities across India, where children are often born at home or mothers discharged within hours of birth due to limited resources.

Moreover, detection within the first two weeks of birth is also challenging. Healthcare workers often lack the tools for surveillance due to their cost and must rely on visual observation, or in some cases a medical facility is simply just too far away for parents to warrant the expense of travelling, especially when accounting for the loss of a day’s wages as a result of the travel.  In each of the above challenges, the baby’s long-term health is, as a result, threatened.

Chromatic Mobile Health Technologies Pvt Ltd (CMHT), a high tech startup is aiming to change this reality through their new technology product entitled ‘clikJaundice’. Developed by Dr. H.M. Shabeer in partnership with the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, ‘clikJaundice’ is a mobile phone based jaundice monitoring technology that is currently in the process of being patented.

The technology is unique because it empowers detection and monitoring of jaundice using images of the infant that are taken via a mobile phone – a device that several low-income families across India already own. Using a pay per use model, parents can take images of their infant using their cell phone camera – which acts as the detector – for a nominal fee and send these via MMS or email to the analysis hub. At the hub, the signal is analysed to yield a chromatic signature, which is then compared with the chromatic colour charts supplied to the hubs by CMHT. Based on this evaluation, the diagnosis is then sent back to the parent or the healthcare worker via SMS.

clikJaundice has the potential to be extremely cost effective because of its non-invasive nature. It does not require any special skills to operate nor are there any recurrent costs such as needles or blotting papers. This technology therefore enables the healthcare workers and parents to get an objective result based on which they can take important therapeutic decisions.

Developer of clikJaundice, Dr. H.M. Shabeer says, “Sixty percent of normal babies and seventy percent of preterm babies will have neonatal jaundice. clikJaundice will democratize healthcare as it empowers parents and health workers to detect jaundice using a simple mobile phone and actionable data – something that is possible to do effectively even for low-income people with limited resources.”

Pilot testing for clikJaundice has already occurred in the cities of Bangalore and Mysore in India with 50 images and a detection accuracy rate of 95 percent. CMHT will therefore shortly commence marketing within these two states take the technology into more low-income markets across India.

In the long term, clikJaundice expects to become licensed to pharmaceutical companies across India in a bid to reach out to parents discharged early from hospitals due to space and cost constraints. CMHT will also work with health workers at the grass roots level through NGOs, rural livelihood societies and community organisations to spread awareness and encourage adoption of the technology locally.

“Within three years, we aim to make clikJaundice technology accessible to 75 percent of parents with hospital births and 60 percent of parents with rural at-home births”, adds Dr. Shabeer.

CMHT is confident that its easy-to-use technology will ensure that an increased number of neonatal children in India receive adequate treatment for jaundice. By empowering parents in neonatal jaundice detection and monitoring, clikJaundice is poised to take a large step towards eliminating neonatal health complications as a result of delayed jaundice diagnosis.

You can learn more about clikJaundice by connecting with Dr. H.M. Shabeer on the Ennovent Network, a global community of 4800+ entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and experts working together to accelerate innovations for sustainability in low-income markets.

The Social Enterprise Showcase is a series of profiles on mission-driven enterprises that are working on social, environmental and cultural development challenges across India.

The Alternative is an online media publication focused on sustainable living and social impact.

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