This 25-year-old doctor is ‘Making What’s Next’ for healthcare screening in Indian schools
It was a typical balmy September afternoon in the coastal city of Vishakhapatnam. But little did Dr. Meghana Kambham know that her life and potentially those of hundreds of thousands of school children would change that day.
Hailing from a family that has set up three educational institutes, Dr. Kambham always aspired to be at the cutting edge of medicine. She and her peers from medical school would hope of landing complex cases while interning at the local government hospital. But that afternoon had something else in store for her.
It was supposed to be a routine task – picking up her mother from their family-run school and getting back home. But a 13-year-old student had collapsed and went into convulsive fits. A certified doctor from the Andhra Medical College, Dr. Kambham, managed to revive the child but it perplexed her that school records had no indication that the student had any medical history or incidents of convulsive fits. According to the records, he was normal and healthy. So, what happened?
“I spoke to the parents, who revealed that their child had a convulsive fit when he was a toddler. They were advised to get him checked every six months, but since he didn’t have any more attacks they didn’t feel the need for regular medical checkups,” Dr. Kambham recalls.
Correlating this conversation and the kind of cases she saw during her internship at the local government medical hospital, Dr. Kambham had her eureka moment.
“When I was studying medicine at Andhra Medical College in Visakhapatnam, I realized 85% of the patients that came to the hospital’s outpatient department had preventable diseases. Most of these were caused by lifestyles they led and the lack of getting regular medical checkups,” she explains.
The problem according to Dr. Kambham was that most people in India don’t go for medical checkups. Instead, they visit a doctor only when there’s something wrong. And thus, began her journey of starting Care N Grow.
“Instead of hoping they will visit a hospital on their own, we had to bring health screening to them for preventive healthcare to work in India. We decided to start with schools because we know children come there regularly and we could do regular screenings and maintain proper health records,” she says.
But there was still one major barrier – the lack of trained healthcare staff that could undertake the screenings. To circumvent this issue, Dr. Kambham created Care N Grow in the form of a platform that enables teachers and other staff to be able to screen children despite having no medical background. The vitals are recorded via a dedicated mobile screening tool and updated in the app, which is then stored in a secure cloud.
The patent-pending secret sauce, however, is the algorithm that converts this data to generate a clinical-grade report card that includes a decision support system. Regular records for every student is stored to generate a medical history while parents are notified in case any abnormalities are found by the system.
Dr. Kambham and her team has so far conducted trials and screenings in 11 schools spread across three cities comprising over 6,000 children. Her efforts are already paying off, having detected 900 cases of preventive health conditions. Of these, 40% cases were of malnutrition and underweight children, 10% obesity, 20% refractive errors, 5% low Hemoglobin, 2% stunted growth, four cases of Type 1 diabetes, two hypertensive cases, and the rest were dysgraphia, hearing loss, skin diseases, and lice in the hair.
Care N Grow was a part of T-Hub, a startup accelerator by the Telangana government in partnership with three of the best academic institutions – IIIT-H, ISB and NALSAR. It is there that Care N Grow was chosen for Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program. The program offers female inventors patent support and mentorship, so they can protect their ideas and further their innovation.
“Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program helps you understand the importance of your product and gives you the validation you need to showcase it to potential investors. The team also took me through the entire process of filing the patent. I received engineering, legal, and marketing mentoring from the team at Microsoft to ensure my product reached its patent-pending status successfully,” Dr. Kambham explains.
Care N Grow, which now has a patent-pending status, is still under development and is scheduled to be launched in November. Dr. Kambham aims deploy the app across 1,200 schools, targeting about 500,000 students in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. From 2019, she aims to expand and deploy the product to other parts of the world such as South-East Asia and neighboring countries.
You can read more about ‘Care N Grow’ here.