When there is no doctor to see: the potential for wireless cardio-metabolic health monitoring

Arsalan and Aye Bay Na Sa at Amrita University.

By Arsalan Haghdel and Aye Bay Na Sa

Published December 10, 2018

The prevalence of diabetes worldwide has doubled over the last 30 years and is projected to be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. Cardiovascular disease contributes to 31% of deaths worldwide with 75% of those deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. The populations at most risk live in remote, rural environments where physicians are sparse. There, patients must travel long distances to seek care, missing work and daily wages. Those who cannot travel suffer complications and poorer health.

Wireless health monitoring circumvents the lack of personnel in rural communities. Amrita University’s Department of Wireless Networks and Applications partners with leaders from the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, and the Amrita Kripa Charitable Hospital in Wayanad to deploy wearable EKGs and non-invasive glucose monitors among cardiac and diabetic patients living in remote areas. Physicians working in urban communities can monitor data and guide patients who are unable to travel for care.

Through funding from the Community for Global Health Equity, Arsalan Haghdel and Aye Bay Na Sa traveled to Kerala, India, between December 2017 and January 2018. In Kerala, they analyzed the diagnostic accuracy of wireless health monitoring devices. Through interviews with healthcare personnel, community leaders, and patients, they assessed their implementation in rural communities.  

Arsalan and Aye Bay Na Sa recognized how wireless technology can remove health care barriers. They also learned about the realities of research. A number of factors – realities in the field, community- or household-level needs, and global or systemic changes – can substantially alter previously well-planned work. These factors can help researchers to reflect on and adjust to population-level priorities, and lead to improved research and greater impact.

For Arsalan, this trip was one of the most memorable experiences of his life. The people of India – their hospitality and kindness affected him the most. Arsalan made lasting friendships while connecting with practicing physicians. Their stories inspire him to work toward eliminating health inequity by serving underprivileged communities in the United States and abroad.

Aye Bay Na Sa found great joy in interacting with patients. Although she did not speak Malayalam, the local language, she learned basic greetings and connected with many of the children she met. Her colleagues and friends in India now inspire her to serve communities that have little to no resources. This experience taught her to be flexible, open-minded, and enjoy working in new places.

Arsalan and Aye Bay Na Sa continue their studies at UB. Both intend to earn a medical degree and practice patient care in underprivileged communities.