AHPI recognised Narayana Nethralaya’s KIDROP, India’s first and largest tele medicine program to screen premature infants for blinding condition

Bengaluru,13th Feb 2020:NN -AHPI Award Ph2 Bengaluru-based Narayana Nethralaya, a Super Specialty Eye Care Hospital, has received the Association of Health Providers India (AHPI) Award for Excellence in Healthcare 2020 for Best Program in Community Development, in recognition of its KIDROP initiative. Dr. K Bhujang Shetty, Founder and Chairman of Narayana Nethralaya, received the Award at an event held in Bengaluru recently.

Initiated in 2007, The Karnataka Internet Assisted Diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity (KIDROP) is India’s first tele-medicine program to screen infants for a blinding condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).

This program, for the first time, developed a model where babies in rural centers could be screened using specialized cameras by a dedicated team, which in turn was linked to an advanced tele-medicine platform that provided ROP care access to these babies.

“KIDROP is a unique initiative taken up by Narayana Nethralaya Foundation to prevent blindness in infants born premature or with low birth weight from a retinal condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity in rural areas. The program, which covers the entire state of Karnataka, has successfully treated thousands of infants in the last 13 years,” said Dr. Shetty.

“There are over 3.5 million infants born premature in India, annually. Approximately 15-40% of these infants develop ROP, the leading cause of infant blindness in the world. With less than 200 ROP specialists in India, screening millions of infants was not possible. The solution came from KIDROP, which pioneered a tele-ROP model using trained technicians and an indigenously developed ROP camera. This has helped in timely screening, treatment and prevention of blindness in a vast majority of infants born in rural and semi-urban areas,” informed Dr. Shetty.

Explaining further, Dr. Shetty said that KIDROP has trained a number of technicians, nurses, and other non-physicians to screen infants in the peripheral centres (where no specialists exist) using a special camera. When it first started, the Retcam Shuttle camera (USA) was used. Since 2015, KIDROP collaborated with Forus Health, Bangalore to develop a low-cost indigenously made camera under the ‘Make-in-India’ innovation program. This camera, the 3Nethra “Neo” is currently used in several centers across the world. The camera won the Innovation of the Year award from Govt of India in 2018.

KIDROP has grown over the past decade to include the entire state of Karnataka. In 2009, the program partnered with the National Health Mission, becoming the first Public-Private-Partnership in infant blindness prevention and ROP.

The program has so far completed over 150,000 ROP screening sessions, qualifying for a world record. Over 45,000 preterm babies from rural Karnataka have been screened and more than 2500 babies prevented from permanent blindness. “We live by our principle that “no child must go blind for want of financial resources,” said Dr. Shetty.

Narayana Nethralaya has provided free screening and treatment to all babies born in Government hospitals and those born to Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families. Under this Program, all Government and private NICUs in 30 districts (127 neonatal units totally) in the state of Karnataka are covered. This model has been replicated in other states including Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana and other states.

Countries including Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, Qatar, Ghana, Pakistan and Kenya have collaborated with the KIDROP team to initiate and support a similar program in their respective countries.

Awards & Recognition

KIDROP was lauded by the Harvard Business Review as an example of reverse innovation. The model has won several awards including The Public Private Partnership of the year 2012, National Award for Excellence in Health Care 2016, Innovation of the year (Health Care) by BIRAC, Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, 2018 and so on. Several states are now emulating the program and are mentored by KIDROP.

KIDROP’s model has been published as a “Best Care Practice” in the “Social Service Sector” by the UNDP and Planning Commission of India (NitiAyog), 2015. The Government of Australia studied the model and has published its validity based on the CDC Guidelines (USA) in 2015.