London, UK [November 1, 2023]: A new study published today in PLOS Digital Health demonstrates the impact of AI-guided virtual care in expanding clinical capacity within underserved communities. Findings show staggering results in improving timely access to healthcare for children in the community, with the percentage of illness episodes treated outside the traditional hospital setting going up from just 4% to a remarkable 76%.
The study, carried out over a 10-month period, was conducted in the slums of Mumbai, focusing on one of the most deprived areas in the city with a population of over 800,000 people. The healthcare needs of the community are often invisible; private doctor visits and hospital stays are extremely costly, and most people earn daily wages, which means even a single day of absence can pose significant financial burden.
The collaborative effort, funded by a grant from the prestigious Children’s Prize Foundation, was set up by British health technology company Feebris together with Apnalaya, a non-profit organisation working in the slums of Mumbai, and Chetana’s Institute of Management and Research.
The goal of the study was to deploy a child health programme supported by the Feebris AI-guided virtual care platform to improve triage and referral processes and increase community-based access to healthcare while reducing reliance on hospitals.
The platform included point-of-care devices and a mobile phone with a preloaded app that could be used offline, which guided community health workers through check-ups. Assessment data were uploaded to a web portal for clinical review, ensuring timely referrals to community paediatricians.
Following the deployment of the programme, the study showed:
- The number of illness episodes treated within the community increased from 4% to 76%
- Consultations with private doctors decreased from 82% to 19%
- Hospital consultations plummeted from 34% to 7%
- The percentage of patients reporting a loss in daily wages dropped from 9.7% to 4.2%.
The findings illustrate the impact of decision support tools, with the programme generating a 13-fold social return for each Indian Rupee (INR) invested at an annual cost of INR 625 (£6) for every child. The authors used the Social Return on Investment model to carry out the analysis, an outcome-based framework that helps organisations measure and account for holistic value.
With an estimated population of over a million community healthcare workers in India, the potential impact of digitally enabled programmes led by these frontline workers holds incredible promise. This is particularly significant as nations across the globe grapple with severe workforce shortages and scarce resources. In England alone, data from October shows the community services waiting list rose to more than 1 million, with children being amongst those suffering the longest waits.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Elina Naydenova,CEO and Co-founder of Feebris, lead author of the study, said:
“Ensuring universal access to healthcare has been our mission ever since we started Feebris back in 2019. Four years later, our platform is accelerating access to diagnosis and treatment while expanding clinical capacity – something that is absolutely crucial in the face of growing healthcare challenges. This study demonstrates the transformative potential of virtual care technology in tackling healthcare inequalities. We hope this powerful evidence will encourage public health leaders across the world to scale community-led healthcare programmes, with technology playing an important role in augmenting the workforce and advancing universal access.”
Dr Melissa Medvedev, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco, Medical Advisor at Feebris, and senior author of the study, said:
“This study provides compelling evidence to support the role of AI-guided digital health technology in improving healthcare access and delivery in the community setting. This has important implications for expanding care to rural and underserved populations, with the potential to reduce health inequities in both low- and high-income contexts.”
Notes to editors
The Feebris system is comprised of:
- The Feebris kit, which includes a range of medical sensors for at-home monitoring of health
- The Feebris mobile application, which allows patients and carers alike to carry out clinical assessments, using decision-support algorithms to ensure universal quality, and escalate risks to the appropriate healthcare professionals
- The Feebris clinical portal, which allows healthcare professionals to access assessment data, risk-stratify patient lists and spot early deterioration.
At Feebris, our mission is to create a world where nobody suffers because they cannot access healthcare. The Feebris AI-guided platform empowers a community user to conduct a clinically reliable check-up and assess risk, improving efficiency and quality of care at scale. Our solution is currently deployed in over 100 sites in the United Kingdom.
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