ACT For Health supports Open Health Care Network to enable their journey from tele-ICUs to Smart ICUs

Recognised by the UN as the world’s 50th Digital Public Good, the Open Health Care Network (erstwhile Coronasafe) has been supported by ACT For Health since the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, the solution enabled the National Health Mission to manage 355K patients through 130K ambulance shifts and 200K tele-medicine calls between March 2020 to May 2022.

Last year, ACT expanded its support to help OHCN develop tele-ICU capabilities – a solution that’s being institutionalized in 7 states to cover 200 district hospitals. Today, our focus is expanding to enable their journey from tele-ICUs to Smart ICUs as a way to enhance its ability as a Digital Public Good that’s integrated with national healthcare programs.

What are Tele-ICUs and why are they important?

When the nation ran out of oxygen during the Delta wave, it was also realised that around 300 rural and remote districts out of 766 overall districts in India don’t have ICU beds with oxygen capabilities.

The 10BedICU project was born to fill this need with a goal to set up 3000 ICU beds in 300 district hospitals, and the original CARE platform was adopted as the solution to build the necessary tooling.

In rural and remote hospitals, there are barely any healthcare professionals who understand how to use critical care equipment and so, along with the supply of physical medical equipment, ACT For Health supported the development of tele-ICU capabilities which could ensure that medical professionals in rural areas could remotely leverage the expertise of critical care specialists anywhere in the country.

How did OHCN develop this tele-ICU capability?

36 engineering students, who were selected and trained in a full-stack industry curriculum, worked under 2 senior software engineers at eGovernance Foundation to build the tele-ICU Capabilities. These students worked with Srikanth Nadhamuni, the founding CTO of Aadhaar, as well as intensive care doctors from Kerala to scope out the design requirements and engineer the feature set – which was piloted at KR Hospital in Mysore.

Today, the solution is deployed to manage 410 ICU beds in 41 district hospitals and has supported 4498 patients as of May 2023.

The road and the vision ahead

The most significant difficulty in creating Digital Public Goods has been the availability of software engineers. The full-stack developer curriculums supported by ACT are now approved as the National Model Curriculum. 18 institutions from 13 universities across 6 states have now adopted the curriculum that is creating a direct path for the industry to get highly skilled talent. The top students from this talent pipeline are being inducted to build and upgrade Digital Public Goods, post which they graduate into the industry.

Thus, by creating a scaling pipeline of high-quality engineering talent, the capability to build and upgrade digital public goods is being directly institutionalized into the nation’s higher education system.

The OHCN software has also completed 2 of the 4 milestones in integration with the ambitious Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) program. Once completed, partner hospitals will have the ability to create unique health IDs for patients, deliver care and get reimbursed under the PradhanMantri Jan Aroya Yojna public insurance scheme; thus streamlining the access and delivery of care for citizens depending on public health infrastructure.

The learnings from tele-ICU deployment indicate that regular ICU beds can also be converted into Smart ICUs i.e. empowered with a digital monitor for remote care. A smart ICU solution is a versatile system that can be seamlessly implemented in any hospital, offering a range of benefits. One of its key advantages is the ability to configure hardware, independent of manufacturer specifications.

This means that even low-resourced hospitals can integrate the Smart ICU solution with their existing equipment, regardless of the brand or model. Such hardware agnosticism ensures compatibility and flexibility and enables healthcare providers to optimize their ICU operations without the need for extensive equipment replacements. By leveraging this technology, hospitals can enhance patient care, streamline workflows, and harness the power of intelligent data analytics to improve overall efficiency within their intensive care units.

During our analysis, we conducted a comprehensive comparison of the development cost for the Smart ICU solution from various commercial sources. Remarkably, we discovered that the OHCN model offers a significantly more competitive option. Not only does it provide an affordable solution for hospitals, but it also addresses the education aspect by incorporating an industry-ready curriculum for training senior engineering students.

This dual advantage ensures that hospitals can adopt the Smart ICU technology without straining their budgets, while simultaneously contributing to the education sector by equipping future tech talent who are familiar with health-tech, ABDM etc. with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the field.

By merging cost-effectiveness with educational impact, the Smart ICU solution becomes a compelling choice for continuing our support to the Open Health Care Network and we can’t wait to be a part of their journey ahead, as it unfolds its numerous possibilities.

ACT Summit 2023: Leveraging the power of collective action to catalyse social impact at scale

We hosted the first edition of the ACT Summit in New Delhi, where a diverse set of stakeholders deliberated upon how technology, innovation and collaboration can help India address some of its most complex social issues across public healthcare, gender, education and environment.

Over 150 participants, including social entrepreneurs, impact investors, CSR professionals and sector experts, agreed that technology, data and platforms, when backed by patient and purpose-driven capital, can create sustainable social impact that can reach billions of people.

The day-long Summit featured multiple sessions designed to encourage dialogue, knowledge sharing, and collaboration among participants, some of whom included Ashish Dhawan (The Convergence Foundation), Rizwan Koita (Koita Foundation), Sandeep Singhal (Nexus Venture Partners), Mohit Bhatnagar (Sequoia Capital), Abhiraj Bhal (Co-Founder, Urban Company), Prachi Windlass (Michael & Susan Dell Foundation), Lathika Pai (Microsoft VC & PE), Supriya Paul (Josh Talks), Divya Jain (Seekho), Naghma Mulla (EdelGive Foundation), Aditya Shankar (Doubtnut), Mekin Maheshwari (Udhyam Learning Foundation), Mahesh Yagnaraman (Acumen), Shaveta Sharma-Kukreja (Central Square Foundation), Suman Gopalan (Freshworks) and Vishal Thakur (Nasscom Foundation), among others.

Across participants, a resounding theme that emerged was that the persistence of social entrepreneurs accompanied by committed capital and the use of technology could pave the way for sustainable social change. Investing in capacity building at an organizational level, challenging conventional wisdom with regards to funding and forming strategic Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) are critical steps required to accelerate the deployment of homegrown innovations and give rise to India’s next generation of social unicorns.

Key Insights

• Social entrepreneurs are an important part of the social change value chain, given their agility, bias for action and focus on innovation. But that ability to create change can become exponential through collective action. There are lots of deep-rooted beliefs in India’s social sector and they won’t change in our lifetime if we take only the traditional routes of change. When we bring innovation, challenge conventional wisdom and collaborate with each other, it can be a powerful catalyst for change.
• Technology has immense potential to achieve scale for social impact; it is the only thing that will help us reach millions and billions. But it needs both patient capital and impatient social entrepreneurs to drive it forward. Having a strong mix of traditional as well as impact investors can bring the required amount of capital to enable technology to deliver meaningful social outcomes.
• The integration of generative AI into ed-tech is one of the more recent global developments. But while it presents multiple possibilities for the growth of quality, affordable ed-tech, tailoring solutions to the individual and socio-linguistic needs of students is the need of the hour. A robust Open Digital Learning infrastructure can power diverse use cases, translation, and multilingual transliteration.
• Peer-to-peer learning between social entrepreneurs building solutions for climate action and healthcare as well as funders supporting them is imperative, since there are many intersectionalities between the two domains – such collaboration can have exponential outcomes and foster more innovation. It is imperative for stakeholders to : a) align on what success or impact would mean for them, b) facilitate peer-to-peer collaboration to improve outcomes, c) take a long-term approach towards funding and technology development.
• Increasing India’s Female Labour Force Participation can be made possible only if gaps in the existing data collection landscape are addressed. Currently, data on 80% of SDG indicators on gender don’t have any sources and while gender-related data is collected in the private sector, it is not published or used. The availability of exhaustive and pertinent data can drive informed decision-making and higher levels of accountability. The presence of granular meta-data will inform the policy-making process as well.
• Continued dialogue between social entrepreneurs and funders as well as the harnessing of patient capital are important to de-risk investments that are critical for bolstering R&D in healthcare solutions. There is also scope for philanthropy to help address the existing gaps in the healthcare value chain, like diagnostic care.
• The time is ripe for India to build more Digital Public Goods due to the rapid adoption of sophisticated open-source technology.
• The role of first generation startup founders is critical to reshape the ‘giving culture’ in India into something that goes beyond just funding and can truly help build the nation. Since most such founders have just begun their philanthropic journeys, it’ll be valuable for them to build their vision of a shared purpose by exploring collaboration avenues with the public sector; such pathways can potentially flow both ways.

The Summit also catalysed purposeful 1:1 conversations between promising social entrepreneurs within the ACT portfolio and funders looking to connect with founders building impactful tech-led solutions.

That every individual can be a co-founder of social change was the resounding message in each of the sessions and for Team ACT, the Summit’s big highlight was the meeting of many minds and ideas across such a diverse set of stakeholders. We’re inspired by all the areas of collaboration that have emerged and look forward to building these pathways further in our quest to catalyse meaningful change for Bharat!

ACT Capital Foundation For Social Impact is a not-for-profit company incorporated and registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013. All donations made to ACT Capital Foundation are eligible for income tax deduction under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act.

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