Diagnostics innovation in mother and child care in India

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On Mother’s Day 2024, Dr Mayanka Lodha Seth, Chief Pathologist, Redcliffe Labs stresses that tech-enabled healthcare tools enhance diagnostics and predictive modeling in maternal and child healthcare. Antenatal care checks like screening for hypertension, gestational diabetes, anemia, HIV, hepatitis B, thyroid profile for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, and syphilis, among others, help in narrowing down high-risk pregnancies

Prioritising maternal and child healthcare is crucial for almost every country. Timely diagnosis and interventions play a critical role in ensuring the well-being of mothers and the next generation. Delays in identifying complications or health issues can have severe consequences, leading to an increase in morbidity and mortality rates. However, the emergence of innovative diagnostic technologies is a revolution and a beacon of hope for healthcare delivery. They enable early detection, timely treatment, and improved prognosis, promising a brighter future for healthcare in India.

The data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) 2019-21 paints a stark picture of the healthcare situation in India. With only 58.1 per cent of pregnant women receiving full antenatal care and a neonatal mortality rate of 24.9 per 1,000 live births, the need for innovative diagnostic technologies is evident.

Also, The current burden for recurrent pregnancy losses in India, as per the available government data, is around 7.4 per cent, which is significantly higher. It is essential that apart from antenatal care the women receive prenatal care too. While the reasons for most of the pregnancy losses are not known, A recent study at Redcliffe Labs unveiled a significantly higher prevalence of chromosome polymorphisms, around 33.7 per cent, in couples experiencing repeated pregnancy loss and infertility. The insight suggests that CPM contributes significantly to recurrent pregnancy losses.

Some of the diagnostic innovations paving a path for mother and child care paving the way for a better and healthier outcome are as mentioned below.

Tech-driven diagnostics and predictive modeling

Tech-enabled healthcare tools enhance diagnostics and predictive modeling in maternal and child healthcare. Antenatal care checks like screening for hypertension, gestational diabetes, anemia, HIV, hepatitis B, thyroid profile for hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, and syphilis, among others, help in narrowing down high-risk pregnancies. Healthcare professionals can identify risk factors for maternal and fetal complications by analysing large amounts of medical data through AI algorithms. It enables healthcare providers to identify high-risk pregnancies early on and take timely steps to mitigate the risks. At the same time, AI can improve the accuracy of detecting fetal abnormalities through ultrasound image analysis.

In areas with limited access to ultrasound technology or poor image quality, such as the rural and remote belt of the country, AI-assisted analysis can be a game-changer. It can help diagnose abnormalities that may otherwise be missed, thereby improving healthcare outcomes. However, to maximise the benefits of this technology, standardising image acquisition, regulating operator qualifications, integrating clinical information, and providing performance feedback is crucial.

Innovations in neonatal diagnostics

Neonatal health is also crucial, and early diagnosis can significantly reduce neonatal mortality rates. Innovations such as pulse oximeters, bilirubinometers, and newborn hearing screening devices aid in timely interventions and improved outcomes. These tools are particularly valuable in remote areas where access to healthcare facilities may be limited. Indian government’s Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is a notable initiative in this direction. This program provides comprehensive healthcare services, including early detection of congenital disabilities and disabilities, to children up to 18 years of age.

Tackling malnutrition with predictive modeling

Malnutrition remains a significant contributor to high maternal, neonatal, and infant mortality rates in India. Approximately 68 per cent of child deaths are linked to malnutrition, which also lowers newborn immunity to infections and diseases. Predicting birth weight for newborns can aid doctors and parents in adopting preventive measures, such as effectively utilizsng Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs) and encouraging balanced diets for pregnant mothers.

Telemedicine and POCT solutions

Telemedicine has enabled remote consultations and monitoring in underserved areas. Such virtual consultations have made healthcare services more readily available to citizens nationwide, bridging the urban-rural divide. Additionally, Applications tracking pregnant women, infants, and children’s health, vaccinations, and nutrition have facilitated timely interventions for better maternal and child outcomes.

Moreover, advancements in non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) and point-of-care testing (POCT) devices have further enhanced accessibility and efficiency in diagnosing genetic disorders and providing rapid diagnosis in remote regions. Affordable and accessible NIPT and POCT solutions tailored for the Indian market have signified a significant stride towards inclusive and equitable healthcare delivery across India.

Wearable technologies for maternal health

Gradually, wearable devices are also becoming a trend in India for monitoring maternal health. Fetal heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, and activity trackers empower pregnant women to participate actively in their health management. These non-invasive devices provide real-time data, enabling healthcare providers to identify potential complications early and intervene promptly.

Road ahead: Innovations to continually transform Indian healthcare

While these innovative technologies hold immense potential, it is crucial to integrate them seamlessly with existing healthcare systems. They should not be viewed as a substitute for conventional practices but as complementary tools to enhance overall care delivery. Involving healthcare providers and local communities in the development and implementation processes is essential to ensure successful adoption and sustained impact.

India’s journey towards improving maternal and child healthcare is a collective effort, and diagnostics innovation plays a pivotal role. By effectively embracing and integrating these advanced technologies, the country can pave the way for better outcomes, reduced mortality rates, and a healthier future for mothers and children.

 

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