Delivering Low-Cost ENT Care to Underserved Communities
Imagine living with an undiagnosed ear injury or infection. In some countries, lack of public awareness — coupled with underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure — can turn what should be a relatively routine diagnosis and treatment plan into years of pain, frustration, and possible permanent hearing loss for children and adults.
According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people around the globe suffer from disabling hearing loss — more than 5 percent of the world’s population.1 Ninety percent of the burden of chronic ear infections is borne by countries in Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific, and Africa.
By integrating advanced technology with the right partners, Medtronic crosses borders to overcome barriers to healthcare access and deliver solutions around the world. One of them is the Shruti program in India. Undiagnosed ear problems are particularly pervasive in India, where 77 percent of those with chronic suppurative otitis media suffer hearing loss.2
Launched in 2013, the Shruti program brings sustainable, low-cost otology services — including awareness education, screening, diagnosis, and treatment — to underserved communities, particularly in densely populated, low-income urban areas. Outreach is facilitated by specially trained community health workers who go door-to-door to tell residents about the dangers of unchecked ear infections and inform them about the availability of free hearing screenings in their communities.
At the screenings, these health workers use an innovative, mobile-based ear screening kit that is capable of capturing patient information and ear images. Medtronic partnered with a local Indian design firm, Icarus; and a U.S.-based mobile health startup, ClickMedix, to develop the product.3 Images are transmitted to Shruti program staff and an ENT surgeon.
People with any hearing loss or more serious problems are referred to Shruti ENT care partners for treatment or potential surgery at an affordable cost. Here, the surgeon can access the screening information that’s been transmitted about the patient. After more detailed testing, appropriate treatment is prescribed.
Through the Shruti program, Hina, a young woman from Azadpur, New Delhi, was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum. Unaware of the perforation, she had lived for eight years with pain due to a continuous ear infection, and never went to a doctor. The program enabled Hina to meet with a patient counselor and eventually undergo a successful tympanoplasty in January 2014. Hina continues to receive regular checkups and is attending college.
“What Medtronic has is unique,” says Dr. Nishi Gupta, Head of Department, ENT, Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, one of Medtronic’s local clinical partners. “It can actually change the scenario; the way we look at ENT. I think if we are ready to serve, and there is a population that needs our help, we need to find ways to actually reach them, pick out those patients, and use these kinds of services.”
Through the Shruti program, nearly 115,000 ear screenings have been performed in the program’s first two years. This partnership has created an innovative healthcare ecosystem that can help solve a widespread problem.
Greater healthcare access. Improved outcomes. Hope for the future. The Shruti program is one way Medtronic is working to connect people around the globe with the healthcare they need.
World Health Organization, Deafness and Hearing Loss Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs300/en/. Accessed Sept. 21, 2015.
World Health Organization, Child and Adolescent Health and Development, Prevention of Blindness and Deafness. Chronic suppurative otitis media: Burden of Illness and Management Options, 2004.
Product is currently only available in India and is not cleared for use in the United States.
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