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Digital Inclusion

Tracking maternal health

Implementing an app to reduce maternal mortality

An AI-driven app that can help prevent maternal mortality in India won Capgemini’s Tech4Positive Futures Challenge in 2020. Now it is set to deliver major real-world impact.

According to the UN, more than 35,000 women in India were lost to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications in 2017, representing 12% of the global share.

In response to these figures, and as part of the 2020 edition of Capgemini’s internal Tech4Positive Futures competition, a team of India-based colleagues developed a software app with the potential to improve this situation and reduce the risks to pregnant women in India.

Mayank Tiwari, Pulkit Dublish, and Saswat Mohapatra had spent a year researching the complexities of the Indian maternal and newborn health care sector, and pinpointed a major challenge they wanted to address.

The team’s vision was to create an AI-powered app that would help community health workers in India support women throughout their journey of pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for babies and young children.

The role of health workers

The health workers are formally known in India as Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs. They are often a critical intervention point between healthcare centers and the community, especially in under-privileged and remote areas of India, and are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Global Health Leaders for their contribution to community health.

The app, called Maatr, was designed to help these frontline health workers diagnose expectant mothers at their doorstep, enable remote consultations, assist them with scheduling and invoicing, and generally increase their involvement and positive impact.

The meaning of Maatr

Maatr is the Sanskrit word meaning mother, and the app uses predictive analytics, remote diagnostics, and voice technology to digitally track the expectant mothers, avoid delays in medical support and procedures, improve collaboration between healthcare providers, and ultimately reduce avoidable childbirth-related complications.

During the testing phase, the team also realized that along with preventive care for the mothers, the app could help track neonatal health, thereby reducing infant mortality.

The app won the 2020 competition – but that’s not the end of the story.

From vision to reality

Sahay Alka, a senior manager at Capgemini based in Thane, Maharashtra, and part of a larger project team, was tasked with turning the app’s potential into reality.

“When Capgemini India’s CEO, Ashwin Yardi, decided to sponsor the app, and the CSR team validated the concept, it was like the starting pistol had been fired,” she says. “I came on board to implement the project, managing the overall delivery, resources, timelines, and so on, and steering the verification process.

“We launched a basic version of the app to a group of about 90 health workers in the Indian state of Karnataka, to test how it performed,” she says. “We were really encouraged by their feedback. Instead of filling out cumbersome registers, they used the app. And with the burden of administration lifted, they spent more time offering advice and giving care to mothers and newly born children.”

Help during the pandemic

The app also played its part during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Nirmala, an ASHA in Bengaluru who was one of those who tested the app.

“During that time of helplessness, the Maatr app was invaluable. As it was dangerous to go out, many people refused to come for checkups. Of course, pregnant women and new mothers were in a high-risk category and checkups were vital. We could provide healthcare assistance to women who didn’t want to leave their homes to visit healthcare centers regularly.

“The app helped us keep track of their antenatal progress, documented vital information, eased our workload with timely prompts, and offered pregnant women easier access to their doctors and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives.”

The right problem to solve

Sahay’s group worked with an expert agency who helped to set the technical requirements for the app, and an NGO to connect with the health workers for the test phase.

“This is certainly something we will take into future projects: a better understanding of the full cycle – from setting requirements to the solution phase,” she says.

The team is currently adapting Maatr to take account of the results and feedback from the test phase. Once the app is finalized, it will be released in collaboration with the Agriculture Development Trust-IICARE, and the Indian public health system.

Support from the top

Sahay says she received a great deal of support on the Maatr project from senior management in terms of resources and services. “Our India CEO has taken a personal interest in this project, and he has said it was his dream to take this application live. He was always there for us, even for small issues.”

Anurag Pratap, VP and Head of Corporate Responsibility for Capgemini in India, also underlines the app’s potential.

“The potential of Maatr is reflected in the agreement we have signed with the Government of Maharashtra to implement it in local primary health care services. For the first time, the power of AI and machine learning will be at health workers’ fingertips, benefiting expectant and new mothers. It is a much-needed tech evolution in healthcare.”

Working with purpose

For Sahay, taking a lead role in bringing this vision to life has been rewarding. “It’s ­satisfying to be working on something with a social purpose,” she says. “We know this is going to have a direct positive impact on ASHA health workers, tackling the problem of maternal mortality. Yes, you have to work hard and have passion for the project, but it’s great to know we’re helping to change lives for the better.”

Moreover, she feels confident that artificial intelligence can help to solve other social problems in the medical sphere. “AI and machine learning have the potential to add value by automating processes for health professionals, allowing them to spend more time on actual patient care,” she says.

“Also, we know these systems can be more accurate than human beings, which again improves outcomes for patients,” adds Sahay. “All in all, there’s a very promising future ahead, and I would say that the sky’s the limit.”

Tech4Positive Futures

This internal competition provides a platform for our colleagues to apply their skills and passions to solve societal and environmental challenges. Through that, we help deliver positive impact at scale in the area of skills, health, well-being, and sustainability. We do this by sharing our financial, consulting, technology, and leadership resources with our global ecosystem of partners.

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