Picture this. You are a doctor who thoroughly enjoys treating his patients but somewhere yearns to innovate something that can make diagnosis and treatment easier as well as improve the lives of his patients.
It first appears to be two different tasks by two entirely different persons — a doctor and a medical device innovator — but here we are talking about someone who is switching between both these roles with an impeccable perfection.
Making strides in the field of medical device innovation is Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi, a medical professional cum innovator who has co-innovated 16 medical devices so far, with an objective to meet incredible dearth and need for indigenous medical device innovation in healthcare.
Dr Chaturvedi, 30, is an associate consultant in ENT at Apollo Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore and director of clinical innovations and partnerships at InnAccel Acceleration Services, which makes him a unique entrepreneur or ENT(ear, nose, throat)preneur in his case.
In a short period, Dr Chaturvedi has gained a reputation among Indian medical device researchers for his insight into a wide array of clinical issues that need attention.
Born and brought up in a middle class family of doctors in Bangalore, the young doctor-cum-entrepreneur spent his formative years in a hospital campus that fostered a scientific temper in him right from a tender age. He completed MBBS from Sri Siddhartha Medical College, Tumkur in 2007 and MS in Otorhinolaryngology
(ENT) from St John’s Medical College and Hospital (SJMCH), Bangalore in 2011.
It was during his second year of postgraduation training at SJMCH when he came across a misdiagnosed case of cancer of the larynx in a patient that the seed of medical device innovation was sown in his mind.
Disappointed by the long undiagnosed state of that patient by other doctors, he went on to invent a low cost portable multi-endoscope recorder, called ENT Multiscope Recorder [EMR]. This invention is considered as one of the top 30 technological innovations in the country, evaluated from over 800 technologies and was awarded the DST – Lockheed Martin India Innovation Gold Medal Growth Programme Award for the year 2012.
Dr Chaturvedi’s first innovation attracted the attention of his mentors, who urged him to explore the possibility of venturing into medical technology on full scale. However, the universal entrepreneur dilemma of bootstrapping funds for an innovation hit Dr Chaturvedi too. But the setbacks only made him more inclined towards medical technology.
So to hone his interest further after his initial stint with developing an indigenous device and to learn the process of medical device innovation through a formal programme, Dr Chaturvedi interned at Stanford India Biodesign Fellowship Programme in 2012. During the fellowship, he co-innovated several medical devices with different teams, which are now at different stages of development and manufacturing.
From there on, Dr Chaturvedi continued his pursuit for identifying the medical technology needs and materializing his ideas into tangible devices with the help of engineers and designers. Navigating the challenging process of medical device innovation, Dr Chaturvedi is now immaculately dividing his time between his clinical practice and innovation as well as mentoring and guiding other clinicians who are willing to be a part of medical device innovation.
Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi told India Medical Times, “I continue to stay involved as a clinician and work as an ENT surgeon. This helps me relate to unmet needs and helps me understand them better. At the other end, the innovation platform helps me solve these needs at the same time. This is the main reason for the belief that a clinician must be involved in both domains to develop novel solutions. Being in just one domain — clinical or innovation — would simply do injustice to the other.”
According to Dr Chaturvedi, the biggest impetus to his career as an entrepreneur came when he was given the responsibility of director of clinical innovations at InnAccel.
InnAccel is believed to be India’s first medical technology acceleration company dedicated to support startups and entrepreneurs developing innovative medical devices and diagnostics for India and emerging markets. It provides a platform for clinicians without having them to discontinue their clinical duties, along with engineers, designers and business graduates to collaborate and develop novel and affordable medical technologies. Dr Chaturvedi works for three days in a week for InnAccel while keeping his medical career alive at the same time.
A common preconception about medical device innovation among doctors is that a physician-in-training has to compromise with his clinical practice in order to devote his time in the process of medical device innovation. There exists a large swath of doctors who don’t have the time, patience or passion for medical device development despite their curiosity to innovate.
Laying to rest all the predetermined notions that medical device innovation is traditionally an engineer’s bastion, Dr Chaturvedi said, “Doctors have the best understanding of the clinical need and the realistic perspective on how it may be solved. Therefore the doctor’s involvement has to be right from identifying the right problem, directing the right solution, concept generation, providing supportive information and testing the new solution. They cannot be merely feedback providers. They need to be involved in the capacity of a co-inventor, clinical advisor or medical director. They need to be involved for 4-6 hours every week till the product reaches the patient.”
A doctor who has an expertise in a clinical specialty and is technologically literate has an ability to be an innovator and work with other technical and business resources to drive new medical devices development. As much as the concept generation is important to this whole process, it is obviously essential to get the right development team.
“There are fellowships and entrepreneurship programmes, like Stanford India Biodesign and Affordable Innovation in MedTech (AIM) for medical device innovations that clinicians can join to be a part of teams that include engineers and designers,” said Dr Chaturvedi.
He further said, “Lots of engineers and designers want to develop medical devices and they may be freelancers or a part of for-service companies that offer design and engineering services. There are many public grant programmes available that doctors can apply to and raise funding to hire or outsource these services. Engineers and designers are now stepping out of their corporate jobs and are willing to form startups in the medtech space and they are looking for clinicians to collaborate. Nowadays there are many medical technology groups on social media and organisations such as InnAccel that support medical inventions, where engineers and designers can be found easily.”
For any physician willing to be a part of medical technology growth, Dr Chaturvedi has few advices to offer from his own experience, “I would advise them to start building a network of engineers and designers and keep 4-6 hours in a week available to give their inputs to them. It is therefore important to be involved as a co-inventor and an advisor in return of a small equity. This will ensure incentive to contribute and allow opportunities to have publications and personal recognition and growth,” he said.
“Doctors must look for medical device startups once a month on a simple Google search to see if any company is working on a product in their field of expertise. Doctors must be a part of local communities; Stanford India Biodesign and InnAccel communities are available on Facebook and LinkedIn. Doctors can add themselves on InnAccel’s mentor network so that startups can reach out to them. An annual medtech summit is conducted in Delhi every year in December. This is a great place to meet all those who are involved in medical device innovations,” said Dr Chaturvedi.
He said, “If a doctor has an idea then he or she can patent the idea online as a provisional patent on the online portal. After which the doctor can apply for the Biotech Ignition Grant funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Canada Grand Challenges, Wellcome Trust grants, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Indo-US Science and Technology Forum and Echoing Green’s Fellowship grants.”
“Doctors can also look for innovation challenges such as the CAMTech Jugaadathon or hackathons that happen once or twice every year in India,” he added.
Dr Chaturvedi is also passionate about mentoring doctors to generate their interest in innovation by actively delivering talks at seminars and conducting workshops at continuing medical education (CME) programmes.
Some of the novel devices Dr Chaturvedi co-innovated during his fellowship at SIBP are — abdominal paracentesis device, epistaxis controlling device, thoracocentesis device, liver biopsy device, nasogastric insertion guide etc. Since his association with InnAccel, he has been a part of the mechanical CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, VAP (ventilator-associated pneumonia) management device and ICP (intracranial pressure) management device.
Nowadays, Dr Chaturvedi is busy working on two inventions — a low cost, easy to use nasal foreign body removal device and a low cost paranasal sinus dilator that will allow an outpatient sinus dilatation in patients with chronic sinusitis. Both the devices are designed to suit the needs of patients in rural settings.
Today, the medical device ecosystem in India is more conducive for doctors to divide their time between clinical practice and medical device innovation. There has been a great transformation in the last five years in knowledge sharing between doctors and engineers. While doctors are great at identifying clinical needs, engineers are the experts on solving problems. Together, they become just about the perfect ingredient needed for a medical device innovation.
Doctors can do their bit to free India from importing 75 per cent of non-country-specific medical devices at exorbitant prices by tapping various opportunities available to invent new medical devices indigenously. Their contribution in innovation can truly revolutionize both medical care and technology in a country like ours where quality healthcare still hasn’t reached a sizeable population.
by Vidhi Rathee