Researchers and entrepreneurs in Europe and the US are struggling to come up with mHealth innovations that improve their countries’ already good health system. iKure CEO Sujay Santra is of a different opinion – he thinks mHealth can create nigh-universal access to basic healthcare to the bottom of the social pyramid. With the help of IBM, his dream is looking more feasible than ever before.
iKure’s first steps
iKure started out in 2010. Two years and a lot of work later, their first rural health center was opened in in Keshiary block in Paschim Medinipur District and Surul village near Santiniketan, Birbhum District in November 2012. The RHC was visited by doctors every week, pharmacists dispensed accredited medicines and trained health workers interacted with patients and screened them using basic diagnostic tests. For rural villagers, RHCs represented an affordable and accessible option that ensures they do not lose a day’s wages plus the travel costs of accompanying family members.
Telehealth – before it was cool
In order to minimize the distance (and cost) between patients and health services, iKure operates in as decentralized a way as possible. Healthcare workers get basic training in order to become doctors’ “hands and ears”, enabling a great deal of diagnosing and treating to happen over large distances. This is really helpful for the community – the people performing these hybrid “nurse-caregiver” roles belong to and serve the community, making iKure a company with firm grassroots connections. When telehealth entered the zeitgeist due to COVID, iKure was more than ready to adapt its healthcare model to the demands of the times. The iKure Health App shared COVID-19 related information and updates in strict compliance with Government protocols and available in the local languages, while also conducting awareness, counseling, and screening for Corona Virus home visits by their inhouse-trained health workers.
iKure and IBM: the future
So far, eight countries in Africa are using iKure’s technology solutions and it has recently entered Vietnam. It wants to expand technology solutions in Africa and south-east Asian countries. “We are looking to enter Indonesia, The Philippines and Cambodia,” CEO Sujay Santra informed. All in all, iKure is looking to provide healthcare services to over 10 million people within the next 5 years. Universal access to basic healthcare is the name of the game, and mHealth is crucial in the wins iKure has made so far.
This scaling up is in large part thanks to IBM’s collaboration with iKure. iKure now has an AI platform based on pre-built models available through IBM Cloud Pak for Data to analyze patient data captured from devices, hospital visits and home-based interactions with community health care workers. This is one strategy iKure employs to help specialists better manage care for patients – especially those living under strict stay-at-home orders. “The IBM team from US, Singapore and India were working as one team with iKure to make the lives of our doctors and our teams easier in terms of how we can prioritize the patients based on the of severity based on their other conditions – so we could identify the patients early on, in terms of cardiac management as well as prevent heart attacks and saving many, many more lives.” iKure’s CEO shared.