Dr. Shelly Batra's blog
In 2005, I took a strategic decision. Much as I loved surgery, I shifted my focus to Tuberculosis, (TB). While I faced criticism and jeers from my colleagues and other NGOs, I quickly realized my next challenge. In order to deliver crucial, life changing services – TB or otherwise – one has to work with the government.
This bag belongs to Rinki. Rinki doesn’t need it anymore. She was thrown out school when she got tuberculosis. So this is tuberculosis or TB, as it’s commonly known. Though fully curable disease, it has now become a global pandemic. There are nine million new cases in the world annually. 1.3 million deaths. Ten million children have been orphaned because of it. Today itself, 5,000 people will die of TB. And TB is curable.
Let’s talk about technology. eCompliance is a low cost solution to tracking the progress of TB treatment. A tablet with a fingerprint reader attached, a patient gives their fingerprint on each visit to the treatment center. If the fingerprint is messed, an immediate alert goes to the health worker, who visits the patient’s house to give the medicine and takes the fingerprint as proof of visit. This ensures that every dose is taken and prevents drug resistant TB. The World Bank Group’s India Development Marketplace played a crucial role in scaling our eCompliance system and upgrading it to a zero text application. The zero text application is being used by illiterate health workers across the world with ease and accuracy.
Back in the 1970s, I was a medical student ready to take on the world. We had a student exchange program, where students from across the world would come to India to visit and learn. One year, there was a group of young doctors from the UK who were excited to be somewhere they could observe ‘rare diseases.’ Seeing the packed hospitals on rounds, they eagerly asked the Professor of Internal Medicine, “May we see a patient with tuberculosis?” The Professor, uncertain of their excitement, replied frankly, “Of course. We don’t just have one, we have wards and wards full!” Tuberculosis (TB) – the infectious disease that primarily targets the lungs - was, and continues to be, anything but a rare disease in India.
As a young medical student in the 70s, I dreamt of becoming a surgeon. Everything about surgery fascinated me: the long hours, the sleepless nights, the unmistakable adrenalin rush and sense of satisfaction of saving a human life.
Three decades later, I had reached the pinnacle of my success. I had a reputation as an accomplished and compassionate surgeon and was wooed by fancy private hospitals with even fancier pay packages and perks. I selected the best the city could offer: a plush corporate hospital with the best equipment and where operating was a luxury itself.
(Blog originally posted in the Innovation Alchemy Blog)
The Team at OperationASHA apply Biometrics to manage Tuberculosis Medication in Slums and demonstrate a dramatic impact in reducing instances of multi drug resistant TB.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” so said Shakespeare, believing, as I do, that one can bring about a change by acting as a catalyst. There are a lot of things that exist disparately, which, when combined at the right time by the right people, create a revolution.
I have worked as a medical specialist for several years. Over the years, I have witnessed every kind of human misery. I have worked under challenging conditions in understaffed, overcrowded public hospitals, where life was a constant war against infection and anemia. I have even performed emergency Caesarian sections by candlelight! The worst cases were those where because of an ailment, indignities would be heaped upon the patient, and social discrimination would raise its ugly head. These were truly those who suffer, for they would have no food, no shelter, no family, no treatment, only pain and suffering. Tuberculosis (TB) is one such disease where patients have to face horrifying discrimination and violation of human rights.