Affordable healthcare technologies for rural India

Imagine a three-year-old child suffering from severe pneumonia, which leads to insufficient oxygen in the blood, at a primary health centre (PHC) in a remote village. The centre has no reliable supply of oxygen. So what does one do? How about a low-cost method for oxygen production in rural areas?

Or what about technology that can help doctors provide effective video consultation to patients in rural areas with low bandwidth, and affordable medical gases for life-supporting procedures in hospitals. These were some of the top innovations that emerged at the recent hackathon conducted by GE Healthcare in Bengaluru.

Sensors that detect hearing impairment among newborns, and applications that aid in identifying vision impairment in children were other top affordable technologies that drew attention at the event.

Over 300 people, mainly students, techies and entrepreneurs from across India, Africa and the U.S., collaborated in a 48-hour hackathon titled — CAMTech India Jugaad-a-thon.

“Many of these innovations address healthcare problems at the grassroots level. At some point, GE will partner with these innovators, provide mentoring, funding and help them convert their ideas into startups,” said Vikram Damodaran, director of healthcare innovation at GE Healthcare. “Three teams from last year’s hackathon have already converted their innovations into startups.”

The Jugaad-a-thon, derived from the Indian word ‘jugaad’ (an innovative fix), was conducted by GE Healthcare India at the John F. Welch Technology Center in Bengaluru, in collaboration with Lattice Innovations and Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global health. A purse of over Rs. 10 lakh was distributed among the top teams.

Here are the profiles of the top five innovations from the hackathon:


Engineering students Suhail Dutta, Reetika Roy and Nirmal Roy, all in their early 20s, addressed the shortage of affordable medical gases in rural India. The team was awarded the first prize by GE Healthcare. They developed a cost-effective technology for steady supply of nitrous oxide to be used as an anaesthetic at hospitals in rural India. The idea was born when they realised that approximately one-third of women, including mothers delivering babies, in rural areas die without the proper supply of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic.

Slow Forward:

The six-member team won the first place for a technology that enables doctors to provide effective video consultation to patients in rural areas with low bandwidth. The team, which included Indian Institute of Science alumni Ramnath Babu T.J., Anil Prasad M.N. and Aimer Bhat, came up with a solution that decreases dependence on data transfer speeds and also compresses video data transfer by 50 per cent. The team was awarded the first prize by CAMTech-USAID.


O2-Matic, a 12-member team, that included Massachusetts Institute of Technology students Cheryl Cui and Bryan Ranger and Nitin Hebbar, a student from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, developed a low-cost method for oxygen production in rural areas. The team bagged the second prize given by GE Healthcare.


A team of engineers — Kuppili Divya, Mahalingam N. and Sandal Kotawala, a student at VIT University — developed an app with gamification features that can detect health conditions among children that go unnoticed until it is too late. It then alerts parents if any developmental delays are identified. The team was motivated to create such an innovation, when one of the members shared his personal experience about his son, who almost lost his vision due to a particular sight disorder.


A 12-member team, led by Jagdish Chaturvedi, created a device that screens hearing impairment among infants. Mr. Chaturvedi, who worked with students from institutes in Bengaluru and Vellore to create the innovation, won the third prize. The product that involves software and sensors embedded in a blanket and cap detects the baby’s eye and body movements within two seconds of response to a sound stimulus. It then communicates this information to a software application installed on a mobile phone or tablet, which analyses whether the baby is suffering from any hearing impairment. The team said that as many as 1.5 lakh children in India are born with hearing loss every year.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 8:36:18 AM |

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