- XraySetu can be accessed via WhatsApp on the phone number +91 8046163838
- The service was launched to support rural India in the fight against COVID
- It assesses the status of the lungs to detect the presence of COVID-19
New Delhi: “I remember asking one of the users of XraySetu, WhatsApp based screening service that enables rapid identification of COVID-19 patients, how we can improve the service? Shubham Kalyan, a radiographer at a diagnostic centre in Maharashtra’s Baramati said, ‘I wish this service had come 20-25 days earlier, we could have saved a lot more lives’. It was a pleasure to know that people are benefitting from XraySetu but also disappointing to hear that we lost lives”, said Umakant Soni, Chief Executive Officer, ARTPARK (AI & Robotics Technology Park).
When the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in April 2021, many people were left running from pillar to post in a search of hospital beds, oxygen and even diagnostic centers for testing of COVID-19. Due to heavy sample load in some cities, RT-PCR test reports were delayed for several days resulting in a delay in treatment.
Amid the crisis, ARTPARK, a not-for-profit foundation in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and HealthTech startup Niramai, developed XraySetu to identify COVID-19 positive patients even from low-resolution Chest X-Ray images sent over WhatsApp. Talking about the initiative, Mr Soni said,
The idea initially originated during the first COVID wave when we heard from people that they have access to a radiologist who can check their reports and tell the status of their lungs. We have one radiologist for 10 lakh people. Therefore, we created a WhatsApp group for doctors to share x-rays for our team to analyse and generate a report. Before we knew it, we reached the group limit of 250 members which made us realise that this is not a long-lasting solution. So, when the second wave of the pandemic hit, we moved to a WhatsApp chatbot and automated the entire process by the last week of May 2021.
How XraySetu Detects COVID-19 For Free
Any doctor or technician can visit www.xraysetu.com and click on the ‘try the free XraySetu Beta’ button on the website. The user will be redirected to another page, wherein he/she/they can choose to engage with the WhatsApp-based chatbot via web or smartphone application. The other way to access the service is to send a WhatsApp message to the phone number +91 8046163838.
1. A doctor needs to place the chest x-ray on an x-ray viewer and take a picture of the same.
2. The doctor can then share the picture with XraySetu via WhatsApp.
3. Technician does image review and anonymization (removing identifying particulars or details) and sends it to XraySetu AI (artificial intelligence) service.
4. XraySetu AI Service analyses the x-ray image using specialized machine learning and deep learning algorithms built for detecting unique Covid features in lungs.
5. A two-page report with a probability of COVID, pneumonia, markings on the lung image with annotations is automatically generated within minutes.
6. The report is shared via WhatsApp for the doctor to access and plan further treatment.
This way, over 1.25 lakh x-ray images reports shared by doctors and technicians from across the country and even globally have been tested and validated. As per the innovators, the AI service has a sensitivity rate (ability to identify those with the disease) of 98.86 per cent and a specificity rate (ability to identify those without the disease) of 74.74 per cent.
Currently, the service is available only in the English language and from 7am to 9pm. Only health professionals are advised to access the service. Talking more about the same, Mr Soni said,
The process doesn’t involve a lot of communication so, language is not that big an issue. The report is shared in a standard format that any expert can understand. Since x-ray reports are very complicated and we don’t want people to take counter medicines by assessing the reports themselves, we advise them to ask their doctor to access the service.
XraySetu is a free service funded by ARTPARK which is funded by the Government of Karnataka and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
Why Do We Need XraySetu?
The service was launched to cater to the healthcare needs of rural India where there is a dearth of both healthcare providers and infrastructure and often people are left with rudimentary services. Elaborating on the same with regards to COVID-19, Mr Soni said,
During the second wave, the SARS-CoV-2 became stronger and was directly affecting the lungs which your RT-PCR test couldn’t detect. If you can’t accurately assess the state of your lungs, over time they will get compromised and in turn, you will need more and more oxygen. And that’s what we saw in rural areas – the delay in assessment compounded with the unavailability of oxygen led to the loss of lives. Also, in several parts of the country, there are no radiologists. They have visiting radiologists which means the expert will visit a village once in 15 days. During a pandemic, you can’t wait for so long to initiate any treatment.
Going forward, the innovators plan to launch the service in multiple languages. Currently, the service can detect 14 other lung ailments apart from COVID-19. This includes Pneumonia, Fibrosis, Effusion – a build-up of fluid between the tissues that line the lungs and the chest, among other ailments. The team is working towards enabling the service for the diagnosis of Tuberculosis.
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