Rural Indian Villages Are About to Get Lifesaving Treatment Through an App

Selena Larson | CNN | October 3, 2016

Lifesaving care for people in rural India will soon come through an app.

Intelehealth, founded by students at Johns Hopkins University, makes an app that lets health workers in rural communities act as a proxy for doctors who are unable to work in underserved areas themselves. India has just one doctor for every 1,700 people, and while 70% of the population is in rural areas, about 60% of the healthcare infrastructure is in cities.

Neha GoelHealth workers in remote areas are trained on very basic care -- they can't offer tests or consults on things like diabetes or asthma, according toIntelehealth founder and CEO Neha Goel. "They can only refer them to a doctor, or the patient ends up self-medicating -- going to the pharmacy and getting over the counter pills with no prescription," Goel, 26, said. "Our approach is to digitize the way primary healthcare is delivered."

During the pilot program, Goel said she met a former schoolteacher in his seventies who lives with chronic joint pain and diabetes, and can now better manage those issues by consulting a doctor digitally. In another instance, an eight-month-old baby was diagnosed with spina bifida through the app, and referred to a hospital for surgery. Before, they would have had to travel hundreds of miles, often spending a month's wages, to see a doctor. App-powered diagnoses save patients time and money. As a result, Goel said, people trust their health workers more, and are less likely to delay care.