20 June 2015: One day Medical Electronics Campaign Workshop
Venture Center hosted the Medical Electronics workshop, with the aim of creating a platform to allow stakeholders from the electronics, healthcare industry and industrial design and government grant disbursement agencies to interact and network. Entrepreneurs both young and experienced were introduced to ground realities in the field of government run healthcare sector. Potential need statements that can be addressed through applied electronics were discussed. Young product designers and engineers were exposed to typical product development cycle in field of medical devices. Some of the safety concerns and safety design constraints were put forth on the table. Senior designers and entrepreneurs shared their life experiences and insights into the nitty gritties that go into building a medical device and the possible mistakes that have taught them well. Finally members from government grant disbursement agency BIRAC shared new grant schemes (IIPME) in the field of medical electronics. Specific selection criteria were discussed, a Q&A round was particularly useful in understanding the funding mechanism of BIRAC.
The introductory session was opened by Founder of Concept Integration, Arvind Savargaonkar.
With 30 years of experience behind him, he shared his understanding of medical device landscape, do’s and dont’s of product development and overview of product development cycle.
Mr. Savargaonkar started his talk by identifying growth potential in the field of medical devices particularly in India, which has large scale unmet needs in the healthcare sector. About 75% of India’s medical device needs are supported with imports, further emphasizing on the proportion of medical electronics and consumables import proportion.
Sharing his experiences of visit to China, and how their strategy of back engineering and robust manufacturing machinery provides the conducive ecosystem for innovators to productize sustainable out-of-the-box ideas. Assessing if India can build and evolve into such a device development hub, highlighting constraints and bold steps that India government machinery and industry can take towards building such an ecosystem would be useful.
He highlighted that innovation need not always come from the product or the process itself but may come from the delivery of the product itself. Citing the business models of uber, whatsapp, he warned young entrepreneurs about how innovations like these cannot be sustainable in the long run.
He talked about the 4 Challenges that need to be addressed during the innovation cycle: Myths, Methodologies, Scale and Speed, Mortality. There is one myth which believes that innovation equals product, which is totally wrong. The pipeline in this case is research to technology to products and then manufacturing. Some ingredients and recipe include:
- Identify unmet and undiscovered needs
- Work on the technology
- Scale up
There is also a need to Identify technical needs. Rationale for existence of products should be thought about. One should also understand the dynamics of turning idea into business. In addition to this, other important aspects include: deal making, valuation, negotiation, communications and focus on excellence in delivery. As speed and size is important, he advised on building this into the research plan. Also, he advised to pay attention to the mortality rate of any product. Also, there is a need for collaborations with clinicians/users to identify unmet and undiscovered needs, clinical inputs and voice of customer. In this regard, he discussed about the need for home dialysis machines, as patient’s load is too much to handle in a regular hemodialysis unit in the hospital set up.
Mr. Prakash Khanzode handled the session on Design thinking. He highlighted the 4 dimensions of connecting and leveraging: Brand and business, Product and service, User and culture, Technology and trends. Some of the disconnects/problems could be how to make holistic decisions. Thus, design thinking enlarges possibilities and helps in joining the dots in your thinking process. There is a need for empathic enquiry, iterative prototyping, abductive reasoning (need to understand circumstances, build scenarios, propose hypotheses) and creative visualization (helps in putting things in perspective using some models or visualization packages).
Session 2 started with a panel discussion on some of the pressing needs and new developments in the healthcare sector. The panel consisted of Dr. Aparna Shrotri (formerly Professor at the department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, B. J. Medical College, Pune), Dr. Dnyaneshwar Shelke (Chief Operating Officer for the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Services project [MEMS / “108 Ambulance”] at BVG India Ltd.), Dr. Sujit Jagtap (neurologist with over ten years of experience and founding member of Jagtap Clinic & Research Center, Pune), and Mr. Prakash Khanzode (Director and Principal Designer at Onio Design Pvt. Ltd., Pune) and was moderated by Dr. Niranjan Khambete.
Dr. Aparna Shrotri started the discussion, focussing on cervical cancer screening. She highlighted how a relatively simple test of visual inspection of the cervix under acetic acid could help detect cervical lesions even before they become cancerous, and thus potentially save lives. She also pointed out the need to collect data about high-risk pregnancies and track low birth weight babies.
Dr. Dnyaneshwar Shelke spoke next about the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Service (“dial 108 to call an ambulance”). He invited participants to visit his central control room sometime and check out their real time tracking system for ambulances and their protocols for providing prompt medical attention. He informed the participants about some facts and statistics regarding the service. He said that around eighty percent of Indians have access to 108 emergency services. In Maharashtra, around 1200 people avail of this service every day. Of these, around 30% are trauma cases and around 30-40% are pregnancy related emergency cases. Typically, for such emergency cases in a hospital, multiple personnel work together as a team to stabilize the patient. However, this is not possible within an ambulance and some tasks have to be carried out by semi-skilled personnel who have not been exposed to training as that of physicians or nurses. These people can be greatly helped by appropriate automated medical devices to help supplement their skills. Dr. Shelke gave some examples of devices needed on these ambulances. He expressed the need for a device that helps with tying of a tourniquet, to the appropriate optimal tightness, so as to minimize bleeding but also not cause necrosis by cutting off blood supply completely. He urged entrepreneurs among the participants to consider development of this and similar other such devices.
Dr. Sujit Jagtap expressed a need for devices of Indian make that meet international standards. He compared the cheap and expensive versions of several devices and enumerated the pros and cons of them. A common theme seemed to be that Indian devices, though cheaper, are often of poorer quality and sometimes do not help in the diagnosis at all. On the other hand, foreign made devices, though of good quality, are very expensive, and getting them serviced promptly in case of malfunction is often difficult. He also suggested improvements in existing devices which would make them more convenient to use. For example, to correlate EEG findings with patient activity, there is a need to record a video of a patient while their EEG is also being recorded simultaneously. There is a need for a version of this system where the camera automatically tracks the patient if the latter moves.
Mr. Prakash Khanzode concluded the panel discussion. He stressed the necessity for doctors and engineers to work together and exchange information, in order to effectively design good devices.
The next item on the day’s agenda was a quick presentation by Mr. Pradeep Kolankari, who heads the Solutions team at IGATE corporation as part of their medical devices and healthcare practice. He discussed the various steps involved in commercializing medical devices and taking them to market from the idea / prototype phase.
This was followed by a presentation on medical devices and diagnostic needs in India by the Social Innovation Immersion Program (SIIP) team at Venture Center. Dr. Mugdha Potnis-Lele, the program manager for SIIP, started by giving a brief introduction of the program and of the four fellows under this program. This was followed by a presentation by the fellows based on the needs identified during their clinical and rural immersions as part of the SIIP. Ms. Amrita Sukrity spoke about the disease burden in rural and urban areas, and introduced the participants to systemic and infrastructural challenges that need to be addressed. Mr. Sarang Kulkarni spoke about the problems of malnutrition and pneumonia and related device needs. Mr. DSS Chaitanya spoke about the prevalence of avoidable blindness and what can be done to help curtail it. Ms.Apoorva Bedekar presented the reproductive health issues and needs about non-communicable disorders like diabetes, identified during the immersions.
Dr. P.K.S. Sarma, Head Technical (Discovery & Product Development) at Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) started the next session where he talked about the innovation cycle and role of BIRAC in the form of various funding schemes. This was followed by a presentation by Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Program Manager, Investments at BIRAC, where she introduced the participants to the Industry Innovation Programme on Medical Electronics (IIPME), a joint program of BIRAC and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. More details are available online at http://www.birac.nic.in/news_description.php?id=169 . Ms. Gandhi and Dr. Sarma also answered queries from participating entrepreneurs about BIRAC’s schemes. Mr. Paul Belknap, Investment Manager at Villgro Innovations Foundation spoke next about Villgro and their funding policies. He also announced a Social Innovation Immersion Program at Villgro and encouraged participants to recommend it to interested candidates.
This session consisted of a question and answer session as well as panel discussion with several entrepreneurs and innovators. Panelists included Mr. Vivek Mohile (R&D at Persistent Systems), Mr. Arvind Savargaonkar (Managing Director, Concept Integrations), Mr. Gautam Morey (founder and CEO of Sofomo Embedded Solutions), Mr. Siddharth Chinoy (founding member, Embryyo Technologies) and Mr. Aniruddha Atre (co-founder, Jeevtronics). The panel shared their experiences with the participants. Mr. Savargaonkar expressed that innovations should not be restricted to one’s technological background and comfort zone and lamented that perhaps a broader outlook is beneficial. Mr. Morey advised the participants to be well prepared before meeting doctors for their inputs, and to make it clear to them that you are not actually trying to sell them something but rather developing a new product. Mr. Atre spoke about the various risks entrepreneurs face, and how to mitigate them. Mr. Savargaonkar expressed the importance of a business model over the approach of addressing things only when they become a problem. He also pointed out that while several other sectors may seem easier to get into, medical devices is a sector where once one becomes established, one can survive a long time. He suggested that entrepreneurs should not be afraid to attempt to solve complex problems, rather than routine problems.
The workshop concluded with a note on thanking the speakers for sparing their valuable time and the participants for their active participation.