Photo: Health workers disinfecting during national lockdown, on April 3, 2020 in Guwahati, Assam, India. India went into COVID-19 lockdown from March 25. David Talukdar/Shutterstock

Islamic Lifestyle

Shariah-compliant Mumbai start-up develops COVID-19 telemedicine screening, testing solution


As India grapples with a rising number of COVID-19 cases, a Mumbai-based Shariah-compliant company has developed a telemedicine solution and mobile app that it hopes can help manage the spread of the pandemic.

India has reported 5,325 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 165 deaths as of April 7, with Maharashtra (where Mumbai is located) alone crossing 1,000 confirmed cases.

“We have developed the complete architecture and prototype of mobile app and telemedicine for COVID-19,” Aslam Khan, Founder and Managing Director of Octaware Technologies Limited told Salaam Gateway.

“The solution is the design of a telemedicine system integrated with a personal assistant mobile application to manage the possible spread of the pandemic,” said Khan.

While there are other mobile apps that allow individuals to do screening through self-answering, Khan said his company’s solution integrates the personal assistance mobile app with telemedicine system into a centralized data storage on the cloud.

“Other apps just allow you to self-test with no provision for storing or pooling that data. Whereas, our application allows data to be collected and stored on the cloud that can be accessed by health professionals for further analysis and treatment,” said Khan, whose company also includes two doctors, Dr Suleman Merchant, a former dean of municipality hospital (Sion Hospital) and Dr Zahoor Patanker (KEM Hospital), in its team.

HOW IT WORKS

The COVID-19 Online Screening and Evaluation Telemedicine Services (COSETS) will allow monitoring and engaging with patients remotely in their homes by use of a computer or smart phone.

The company says this will facilitate a line of communication between quarantined people and health care services, and help maintain visibility of those recently discharged.

“Our primary objective is to help public health authorities at the national, regional and community levels by identifying who is most vulnerable,” said Khan, adding that the solution could help the government plan containment strategies and prepare necessary resources to tackle any emergent situation on a war footing.

In India, COVID-19 test and treatment cases are assigned to designated public and private hospitals and diagnostic centres, which Khan said are “overburdened”.

The government’s Indian Council of Medical Research on Apr 7 said there were 139 centres provided with diagnostic kits, and 4 government and 65 private laboratories approved for COVID-19 testing. As of Apr 7, 114,015 samples were tested, with 4,616 coming back positive. 12,584 samples were reported on Apr 7 alone.

As Khan's mobile application uses questionnaire-based classification suggested by the World Health Organization for suspected COVID-19 patients, he said it will allow users to do initial screening remotely without needing them to travel to primary healthcare, thereby maintaining social distancing. 

“The data captured through the mobile application is stored on common cloud repository accessible by telemedicine system at primary as well as secondary healthcare distributing the diagnosis workload,” he added.

The app captures authenticated information and grid location, according to the prototype seen by Salaam Gateway. 

The company expects the platform will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) over time to allow providers to identify patients at risk of deterioration and optimize their care.

DEVELOPMENT

Transpact Enterprises, a company under Octaware, was the first start-up to be listed on the newly launched Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Start-up Platform for IPO (Initial Public Offering) investments in August 2019.

Being a healthcare-focused tech firm, with three intellectual properties under its belt, Khan said Octaware products already had essential features of a telemedicine platform such as audio/video for live patient engagement, clinical documentation management, Electronic Medical Record (EMR), scheduling and collaboration. “It was a matter of plug-n-play to come up with a new comprehensive solution for COVID-19,” he said, adding that they developed the solution in just three weeks.

Octaware bootstrapped the products and now expects an investment of 5 million rupees ($66,000) to roll out the complete solution.

The company has submitted the proposal to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to collaborate in promoting the solution.

The project was shortlisted in top 300 solutions among 2,500 entries and 15,000 participants in the recently held hackathon – Garage48 “Hack the crisis in India” organized by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Khan said his company’s solutions can be implemented nationwide as well as in other countries with the intervention and collaboration of the government. “We are hoping to get the government’s blessings to implement this in large scale.”

In a previous interview to Salaam Gateway, Khan said he runs Octaware Technologies in accordance with Shariah principles, although it’s not formally certified Shariah-compliant as India doesn’t have any official body to issue any such certificate. The BSE-listed software firm has zero debt, and it spends all its incidental interest earnings on charity, while 2.5% of the profit goes toward payment of zakat. 

(Reporting by Syed Ameen Kader; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])

*Corrections were made throughout to reflect that Transpact is a company under Octaware and not that Octaware is the parent company of Transpact. 

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COVID-19
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Syed Ameen Kader