Anind Dey, Ph.D., dwellSense Principal Investigator, Carnegie Mellon University
I am visiting Southern India for six months — I came in June and will leave in late December. In keeping with my work on dwellSense, I have been looking for opportunities in India where advanced technologies, or at least better information, can be used to enhance clinical practice and personal decision-making. Very unscientifically, I have observed a few things that suggest that India is in need of such technology.
One observation is the huge number of advertisements for help for people with diabetes. Apparently, adult-onset diabetes has become a common issue as India’s growing middle class takes on more of a Western lifestyle and diet. As my cardiologist constantly tells me, “Indian bodies were not made to handle Western diets.”
Another issue is the huge number of people living below the poverty line. I don’t have exact numbers, but it is close to half a billion people, even with the poverty line set quite low (daily per person: 31 Indian Rupees in urban areas, which equates to $0.62 U.S. Dollars, and 25 Rupees in rural areas à $0.50 U.S. Dollars). Many of those individuals can’t afford medical care nor can they take the time to manage their health issues unless an acute problem develops. Therefore, the ability to collect observations of daily living (ODLs) in an unobtrusive, low-cost manner seems crucial.
A third observation is that although all doctors rely on self-reports from patients, homeopathic and ayurvedic doctors here seem to only rely on these reports and what they can observe during a visit. There are rarely, if any, tests that are conducted to confirm or substantiate the patient self-reports. This calls for the collection of data that would help the diagnostic process.
The main issues here are time, cost and literacy. Thinking around how to make technologies that require little manual effort, are cheap and don’t require a literate population or training, is what’s needed. These requirements might also apply to a number of other problems on the subcontinent, but they certainly apply here as well.