The results of a new study set up by health tech company Feebris, have been published in PLOS Digital Health and demonstrate the power of AI-guided virtual care in expanding clinical capacity within underserved communities.
Carried out over 10-months, the study was conducted in one of the most deprived areas of Mumbai. The goal was to deploy a child health programme supported by the Feebris AI-guided virtual care platform to improve triage and referral processes, as well as increase community-based access to healthcare.
The platform included point-of-care devices and a mobile phone which was preloaded with an app that could be used offline. This app could be used by community health workers to guide them through check-ups. Assessment data was then uploaded to a web portal for clinical review to ensure timely referrals to community paediatricians.
As a result of the programme’s deployment the number of illness episodes that were treated within the community leapt from just 4% to 76%. Additionally, the number of consultations with private doctors – which can be costly – fell from 82% to 19%, and hospital consultations fell to just 7% from 34%.
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.”
According to the study, the programme generated a 13-fold social return for each Indian Rupee (INR) invested at an annual cost of INR 625 (£6) for every child.
The Feebris system includes a range of medical sensors for at-home health monitoring, a mobile application which supports patients and carers to carry out clinical assessments using decision-support algorithms and the clinical portal, where healthcare professionals can access assessment data, risk-stratify patient lists and spot early deterioration.
Dr Elina Naydenova, CEO and co-founder of Feebris, lead author of the study and a speaker at the recent AI and Data event, said: “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.”
The study was funded by a grant from the Children’s Prize Foundation, and Feebris worked with Apnalaya, a non-profit in Mumbai, and Chetana’s Institute of Management and Research.