Non-invasive Ways of Monitoring Anemia – A Game Changer for Indian Public Health System

Published on 09 Dec, 2021

Anemia is becoming a public health challenge in India, with women and children being the more vulnerable groups. Anemia needs quick detection and constant monitoring to ensure proper medical attention. Currently, few non-invasive detection devices are available for its diagnosis, especially in the rural parts of the country. Therefore, India has a significant potential market for anemia detection and monitoring solutions that medical device companies can explore.

A recent survey by National Family and Health (Government of India) shows rising levels of lifestyle-related diseases, such as hypertension and blood sugar, among urban population and malnutrition-related diseases, such as anemia, in rural areas. One in every two women (15–49 years) and children (6–59 months) are anemic in India. These results show the country presents a substantial business opportunity for the medical device industry. While there are quite a few wearables and other monitoring devices for blood sugar and hypertension with an established market, the rural markets remain untapped.

Anemia is a medical condition in which a person with a deficiency of red blood corpuscles or hemoglobin in the blood suffers from pallor, weakness, and weariness. Failure to detect and treat anemia can lead to serious complications such as heart failure, severe weakness, and poor immunity. Anemia is a major concern during pregnancy as it can lead to low birth weight, premature birth, and maternal mortality.

New non-invasive monitoring of anemia
Medical device companies have been researching non-invasive methods to track anemia. Both established firms and startups are working on novel solutions that utilize technology to detect this illness faster and in a reliable manner. Moreover, for any product to gain traction in the rural markets, it also needs to be mobile and easy to use.

Some of the new solutions in this area are as follows:

  • Medical technology company Masimo has introduced a new device, Masimo SpHb®, that undertakes non-invasive, continuous hemoglobin monitoring for neonatal patients. Researchers believe that the technology "offers reliable Hb [hemoglobin] values, which are comparable with the more traditional tHb [invasive venous blood sampling]."
  • Most notably, instead of medical scientists, electrical engineers and computer scientists from Washington University have developed a smartphone app to track anemia called HemaApp. The app uses the phone’s camera to estimate hemoglobin concentrations for anemia. However, this solution is still immature and under testing.
  • Bosch has developed a Hemoglobin Monitor Solution (HMS). This portable solution is especially beneficial for regions where routine medical care is not possible. HMS is a non-invasive approach that can be used to test a large number of people quickly and safely. The product was given the CES Innovation Award in the ‘health and wellness’ category. The solution uses AI to detect anemia and has the ability to revolutionize anemia management.
  • Atlanta-based Sanguina Inc has launched AnemoCheck Mobile, an app that measures hemoglobin levels, which is available on Google Play Store. AnemoCheck analyzes a photo of the user’s fingernail beds and displays the hemoglobin level on the screen, which is a common indicator of anemia.
  • Indian company Biosense Technologies Pvt. Ltd has developed a portable gadget, ToucHb, to estimate the hemoglobin count. The product requires the patient to wear a finger probe, embedded with tiny diodes that send light signals to a case not bigger than an iPad to measure hemoglobin. The results can be assessed in under one minute.

Many of the solutions mentioned above are either commercialized or nearing commercialization. However, medical device companies looking to penetrate the hinterlands of India would have to ensure their offering is reasonably priced, easy to use, and yet effective. If a solution can fulfill this criterion, it would capture a sizeable market.