As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the rural heartlands of India, it has become more critical to drive rapid testing, contact tracing, and create dedicated containment zones. However, the rural infrastructure is not as well developed as it is across cities. So, when the respective tests are taking more than a week across some cities, the plight of our rural geographies – home to about two-thirds of the Indian population – in the second wave is easily understood. The fact the RT-PCR tests also give a ‘false negative’ for some of the variants only adds to the situation.
ARTPARK (AI & Robotics Technology Park) has extended some relief on this front. ARTPARK is a one-of-its-kind innovation hub for AI and robotics in India that is created on the model of Stanford Research Institute, which played a pivotal role in creating Silicon Valley in the US. ARTPARK (seed funded for 230 cr by DST, Govt. of India and Govt. of Karnataka) in collaboration with HealthTech startup Niramai and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the innovation hub has launched XraySetu, an AI-driven solution for the early intervention of COVID-19 cases across India. The free-to-use platform extends an equitable AI technology to rural Indian doctors for doing a quick chest X-ray interpretation over WhatsApp chatbot.
To conduct the health check, any doctor simply needs to visit www.xraysetu.com and click on the ‘Try the Free XraySetu Beta’ button. The platform will then redirect the person to another page, wherein he or she can choose to engage with the WhatsApp-based chatbot via web or smartphone application. Then, they just need to click the picture of the patient’s X-ray and obtain the 2-page automated diagnostics with annotated images in a few seconds. While extending the probability of the COVID-19 contraction, the report also highlights a localized heatmap for a quick perusal of the doctor.
Umakant Soni, Founder and CEO, ARTPARK, said, “XraySetu paves the way for exponential technologies like AI to leapfrog and provide cutting-edge healthcare technology to rural India in an extremely cost-effective manner. Built with the collaboration of industry and academia, XraySetu can serve as a great template for bringing such technology-driven innovations to the heartlands of India. India is looking to invest more than Rs 64,000 crores to overhaul the Indian healthcare system as per the 2021 budget. Instead of building physical PHCs, we can enable cutting edge AI-driven systems powering mobile digital PHCs, which can make healthcare more accessible even across rural India. We can’t afford yet another pandemic to derail our lives.”
“NIRAMAI has partnered with ARTPARK and IISc to provide a rapid COVID screening method for rural doctors who have access to X-ray machines. XraySetu provides an automated interpretation of Chest X-rays to predict if a patient has any lung abnormality that indicates COVID-19 infection. This service is provided over a simple messaging platform like WhatsApp with an input of a simple photo of the X-Ray image,” said Dr Geetha Manjunath, Founder and CEO, Niramai.
“The biggest challenge that we faced at the start of the project a year ago was the lack of COVID positive X-ray images. To circumvent this problem, we developed a unique Transfer Learning framework that leverages easily available X-ray images of lungs, not necessarily COVID positive, to learn useful features which have high predictive power. We also saw that doctors tend to trust more if some sort of explanation is provided. To this end, we developed a confidence score which is guided by the areas of lungs that are infected. The system outputs a prediction, localizes the infected parts, and creates a report which gives a confidence score, all within a few minutes,” said Prof Chiranjib Bhattacharyya, IISc.
On top of COVID-19, the platform can also ably detect 14 additional lung-related ailments including tuberculosis and pneumonia alongside others. XraySetu can further be used for both analog as well as digital X-rays and work with low-resolution images sent via mobiles. XraySetu has successfully piloted more than 300 doctors in rural areas over the last 10 months.