Savemom: Providing quality maternal care through mesh network – Senthil Kumar [OpenWRT Summit 2018]

Savemom helps bringing care to thousands of pregnant women in India.

When Senthil’s sister was pregnant, she was often panicking for some small ailment and the whole family went to the hospital and had to spend an entire day and in the end the doctor would just say that this thing is normal during pregnancy. So Senthil talked to the doctors and asked if it wasn’t possible to do this more efficiently. Turns out that the doctor doesn’t even do all the blood pressure etc. measurments himself, so it could just as well be done remotely. So Senthil bought a bunch of off-the-shelf consumer blood pressure etc. measurment tools. They have displays, so he hacked in a Bluetooth chip. This connects to a phone, which sends an SMS link to the doctor. That opens a very simple page where the doctor can see the same information as he would otherwise get on paper. Then he can say either good or bad. In the latter case, the report back to the pregnant woman will get a link where they can book a visit to the hospital.

In India, many women still die due to complications during the pregnancy. In rural areas, going to the hospital is difficult: it’s a day that you can’t work. So can Senthil’s hack be used to improve this situation? A lot of money is already invested in reducing mortality during pregnancy, but the problem is that they health workers try to convince people to go to hospital but they don’t go, there is no proper monitoring.

So Senthil made a kit that can be carried by the health worker and can be left with the mother. The measurements are collected just as with Senthil’s sister, but now an expert system is added to identify the high risk patients, and these are evaluated by an actual doctor. The high risk patients are then invited to the hospital for a checkup.

In practice, however, it turned out that the health worker just put the devices on themselves instead of carrying it to the village because it is all so heavy. So they made a wearable device out of it. That device has a GPS to check that it’s really in the village. But then the problem was that the husbands were taking the smartwatches away from the women, and the women were also uncomfortable wearing such an expensive device. So they designed the device to look like a chain of beads.

In the villages, there is no internet connectivity. So the data is stored offline on the health worker’s tablet. However, the health worker switches off the tablet after collecting the data, so it never gets send to the system. So they install a small OpenWRT router in every village, which creates a mesh to send the data to the health center which has actual internet connectivity.

A big problem is malnutrition. If they just give highly nutritious food, the women will give it to their husband and children instead of eating it herself. So instead they give two foods: one that they can share with husand and children, and the other is a powder that they add to the water that the woman drinks to avoid feeling hungry. Thanks to this, the women also don’t get as much urine loss after the birth which avoids that they are shunned for a long time.