Of the 69.2 million diabetics in India, 34.6% are going to suffer from Diabetic Retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease found in diabetic patients that causes them irreversible blindness. The WHO estimates that 9% of all Indians between the age of 20 to 70 will suffer from type-2 diabetes. Within this percentage, a whopping 18% will suffer from diabetic retinopathy.
Only with timely treatment can the risk of complete blindness be avoided. But access to timely treatment in India is impossible when there is only 1 doctor for 2000 patients. The number of ophthalmologists in India is a mere 18,000. This is a dual-edge sword. A lack of awareness in a high-risk population along with low availability of trained experts to solve the same.
Rajarajeshwari Kodhandapani had a dream to screen a million people for diabetic retinopathy. Especially from the ‘forgotten billion’ category, those residing in rural India have no access and affordability factor in their healthcare options. At the same time, health literacy n rural India is far less than that in urban India.
She along with Vish Durga, Lalit Pant and Pradeep Walia decided to start Artelus. Founded in Bengaluru in 2015, Artelus strives to offer screening tools for multiple diseases, especially diabetic retinopathy, along with reducing the burden on healthcare professionals. Their AI algorithm DRISTi helps diagnose the patients for potential risk of diabetic retinopathy along with glaucoma, choroidal neovascularization and diabetic macular oedema.
Once DRISTi confirms the patient's risk of diabetic retinopathy, only then does the doctor comes into the picture. This helps doctors cut their time down by focusing only on the treatments rather than spending it is diagnosis. Cutting down the time of diagnosis also helps lessen the burden on our healthcare professionals.
The startup won $100,000 by being the winner of Qualcomm's Design in India Challenge 2018. In the same year, they also gained the CE mark for DRISTi, which makes its sale available in Asian and European markets. The startup also has plans to get USA’s FDA approval and venture into the American market. Will startups like Artelus help prevent blindness in the Diabetes Capital?