Digital healthcare in times of a pandemic

The Norway India Partnership Initiative (NIPI) aims to help identify and test novel and promising healthcare solutions in its effort to support State National Health Missions of five states in India: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir. As an unexpected yet result of this partnership has been the development of a triaging tool for detecting COVID-19 suspect cases.

NIPI, through a strategic partnership with the Wadhwani Institute of Artificial Intelligence is using cough sounds for the detection of COVID-19 suspect cases. NIPI provides the necessary infrastructure and techno-managerial support for the implementation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based triaging tool which has been developed by the Wadhwani Institute.

Here’s how it works:

After providing demographic information and clinical history a suspected COVID-19 patient is asked to provide short “solicited cough” sound samples, which is recorded by the data collector using a smartphone-based application. The result of the COVID-19 test will be linked to the cough sounds. These parameters will be used to develop the artificial intelligence-based tool to triage symptomatic patients for confirmatory testing for COVID-19.

New innovative approaches are crucial in pandemics like COVID-19 where supply of test kits and the number of testing facilities is sometimes lacking, yet large populations must be diagnosed to avoid spreading of the disease. The challenge with symptom-based testing is that most COVID-19 symptoms are non-specific and are similar to seasonal flu symptoms. Hence, it is crucial to devise a triaging method that identifies suspected cases of COVID-18 that can be prioritized for confirmatory testing. The novel digitalized COVID-19 diagnostic tool is currently being tested and implemented in the states of Bihar and Odisha.

A partnership of this nature is exactly what the Governments of Norway and India envision through NIPI. The longstanding cooperation in health between our two governments has churned out and implemented a large number of innovative healthcare solutions in India, and this is more relevant in the current times than ever before.