At a hospital years ago, Gautam Rege saw doctors using a manual calculator to figure out the quantity of nutrients required for premature babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit. 

That’s how it started, says Rege, co-founder of Kimaya NICU, recalling how he developed a fledgeling programme to calculate neo-natal nutrition for doctors.

Years later, he was pleasantly surprised to know the programme had indeed helped in improving nutrition to the premature baby and saving lives as well. 

Low birth weight babies, for instance, sometimes literally fit in the palm of your hand, says Rege, explaining why it is critical to get the nutrition right. And at neo-natal intensive care units (NICU), some infants are fighting for survival and have a 50 percent chance at life, he says. 

In collaboration with Pune’s KEM, Rege refined the programme -- Kimaya TPN (total parenteral nutrition), besides piloting it at the hospital. Today a handful of hospitals use the product, including Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, he says, as Kimaya prepares for greater exposure to doctors at the national convention of the neonatology forum, Neocon, starting in Patna on December 4.

Nutrition nuggets 

Infants cannot be given interventions, glucose etc like adults, and yet their nutrition is critical as the first month is important for the survival and development of the baby, its organs, genetics etc, Rege explains.

The calculation of nutrients required has to be accurate, without delay and the nutrients need to be given correctly. At KEM’s NICU, touted to be among the country’s best, there are 45 beds and they are always occupied, says Rege. Manually the calculation takes about 45 minutes, and this gets cut down to seconds using Kimaya, he explains.

Dr Umesh Vaidya, heading KEM NICU, points out that intervention in the first week also improves the child’s IQ. Vaidya, also involved in designing the programme, says that it does not just helps clinicians, but guides the doctor, has in-built safety checks and is convenient enough to carry on the phone.

Starting trouble

Doctors were initially nervous to use the product or were not tech-savvy and so did not install it. But Rege revised the product, added more features and made it internet-based to make it easy for the doctors, with a subscription fee.

Over the last two odd years, 10,848 calculations have been done from just one NICU, he says, adding that data can be culled, even while confidentiality is protected. The data can be useful to map region specific symptoms, he says, and that can be used to plan targeted healthcare delivery.