India Collectively: Battling the pandemic with expertise

12 July 2020

Dhananjay Vaidyanathan Rohini, Companion at Alstonia Influence, a improvement advisory agency in New Delhi, was having breakfast on 14th of June chomping on an omelette. He out of the blue stopped. One thing didn’t appear proper. He had no sense of style. As he had learn that it was one of many signs of COVID-19, he googled it to verify. He instantly went to get examined. His worst fears got here true. The take a look at was constructive. 

He was apprehensive when his household went to get examined. Luckily, all of them examined detrimental. Forsaking his spouse and 18 month-old son, he moved into his research to quarantine himself. Every kind of fears and anxiousness enveloped him. 

A day later, his telephone rang. It was a woman physician calling from Bengaluru. She stated that she was calling on the behalf of the Delhi authorities who had knowledgeable her about his situation. She first listened to his fears after which patiently defined how he would get well quick as he was younger and wholesome. She underlined all of the precautions he ought to take which included issues like sanitising his room and washing his plates.  

“In a span of 20 minutes, she gently took me by the entire journey of what all to do and what to not do in graphic element. She ran by the drill I’ve to comply with within the coming 14 days when it comes to what to look out for and whom to name if there was an emergency like problem in respiratory. It was a personalised empathic name that did the magic. I lastly calmed down,” stated Dhananjay.

The Bengaluru physician was a volunteer who was a part of the most important ever tele-medicine initiative undertaken in India involving over 6,500 docs to battle COVID-19 that was ravaging each city and rural India. It’s referred to as Venture StepOne.  

Venture StepOne

Venture StepOne truly began on a WhatsApp group when some keen and apprehensive kids began speaking of what could possibly be finished when it comes to constructing an answer to sort out the pandemic in India. Of their preliminary discussions, they discovered that the gameplay needs to be to Establish, Isolate, Take a look at and Deal with.  However, this needed to be finished with out the folks having to step out of their houses as it might expose them to the an infection.  

At the moment, StepOne handles 40,000 calls a day. As many as 3.5 million calls had been answered within the final 100 days. Greater than 1.25 lakh consultations had been accomplished. Over 27,000 excessive danger circumstances had been handled weekly and 25,000 psychological well being counseling periods have been accomplished by the docs and volunteers concerned. Huge effort. Exhibits what we are able to do with expertise.

All this was potential as a gaggle of start-ups bought collectively in Bengaluru to provide you with a system to achieve out to victims of the virus, assist them with recommendation, counseling and even dealing with psychological well being problems with those that didn’t contract the illness.  On the very day they fashioned the volunteer group, they’d over 250 members on the finish of the day. It saved swelling on a regular basis.

When cloud telephony companions like Kaleyra, Ozonetel and Exotel with software program companions like Lucep & Freshworks  and others to deal with the calls like Sheros, Genpact, and Abhinava Med Tech, joined the motion, the tele-medicine initiative began to take form. They created a system the place anybody might converse to docs on StepOne from house with out even having an web connection or a smartphone.

The thought was pitched to the Karnataka authorities which noticed the potential in it and gave their helpline to StepOne.  Because it labored so properly, different states additionally needed the identical system. In simply 4 months, Venture StepOne has emerged as one of many largest tele-medicine efforts in India serving folks freed from price.

The beginning-ups concerned had been from completely different segments like tele-medicine, expertise, cloud telephony and funding. Curiously, these startups had been instantly or not directly rivals, however to battle the virus, they bandied collectively to create a system to tele-screen symptomatic Covid-19 sufferers utilizing cloud telephony.

This was only a week earlier than the lockdown on March 23. It was imminent that India would go in for a lockdown and these younger entrepreneurs, docs, well being care staff and volunteers thought it the fitting second to arrange one thing like this.

The timing was good. Sufferers desperately wanted to achieve out to docs and had been terrified as they noticed the official healthcare equipment beneath a variety of stress and stress because the circumstances had been rising. State healthcare helplines had been additionally ill-prepared for the pandemic and didn’t have the bodily infrastructure to even reply calls that had been attempting to achieve it. 

Involved residents who feared that they had been contaminated with the novel coronavirus simply needed to decide up their telephone and name a helpline. Because it was a digital quantity, it might by no means be engaged even when a number of callers had been calling on the similar time. An automatic interactive voice response which is mainly only a computerised telephone system that enabled a caller to select from a voice menu would assist the physician to confirm if the particular person was contaminated. In case they’d COVID-19 signs, they might quickly be referred to as by a physician who would recommendation them on the way in which ahead, the precautions to take, whether or not hospitalisation was required and so forth.

The Karnataka authorities noticed that StepOne was effectively dealing with the emergency with pace and dedication and so bought them to deal with the state helpline. Quickly after, eight different states roped in StepOne to additionally deal with their helplines. 

Initially, StepOne bought some loopy queries that was fully unrelated to the pandemic and so the techies tweaked their software program to display the affected person’s question to find out whether or not it was associated to COVID-19. Additionally, to find out how critical the case was and what was the form of intervention was wanted.

Nevertheless it was not as straightforward because it sounds. StepOne needed to cater to completely different states with completely different languages. In some states, the dialects would change from district to district and to search out docs who would match the invoice as dedicated volunteers referred to as for some work. 

Rohan Havaldar, one of many  volunteers of StepOne instructed India Collectively: “Our group of docs and volunteers grew organically inspired by the necessity of residents to talk to docs when there was a lot of uncertainty. The callers discovered speaking to the docs so reassuring and likewise bought speedy counseling. The position of docs is central to this train.”

StepOne providers


IVRS Helpline – Residents of the state can name the helpline quantity and share their symptom foundation which if required, a physician would name again and information the citizen on subsequent steps


IVRS Covid Affected person out name counseling – If a citizen has taken a Covid detection take a look at and been examined constructive, the state govt shares this data with StepOne, for Docs to name the affected person, counsel them and share subsequent steps on medical intervention foundation their severity.


Internet based mostly tele-screening bot – A web based chat bot that interacts with residents who want to share their signs and passes the data to a physician foundation the signs.


Psychological Well being Counseling – On this troublesome time, many voters are struggling to handle their psychological well being challenges and shouldn’t have entry to skilled assist. The psychological Well being helpline offers counseling to residents for expressing their points for applicable resolutions.


Plasma financial institution – Residents of Delhi can now name up on a helpline 1031 / 1800111747 to donate or make a request for plasma with all the logistics being taken care of at ILBS a Non-Covid hospital 


Quarantine Monitoring – Service for states to watch well being of residents beneath house quarantine and ensure proper remedy is prescribed.

Unfold and help

Aside from Karnataka, the tele-medicine effort has now expanded to Odisha, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Delhi, Nagaland and Meghalaya. StepOne has docs who amongst themselves converse 31 languages.

Arun Patre, who heads Incubation on the Mazumdar Shaw Medical Basis, instructed India Collectively: “StepOne intends to proceed on this present avatar until deaths because of Covid in India come right down to zero. It hopes to create a construction much like the Nationwide Cadet Corps and the Nationwide Service Scheme the place the tech neighborhood would develop sandboxes for Sustainable Growth Targets of the United Nations as a coaching floor for a brand new age IT task-force for administration of nationwide disasters.”

He continued, “Corporates ought to dedicate a few of their useful resource swimming pools as a part of their CSR initiatives to contribute such an effort. Hackathons the place a lot of folks congregate to interact in collaborative pc programming will be organised that may change into a conduit to handle the concepts that benefit these sources. The federal government can construct a platform which could possibly be deployed in emergencies and construct infrastructure leveraging expertise to fight challenges.”

StepOne obtained a grant of Rs. 25 lakhs from the ACTFund that was arrange by varied enterprise capital corporations and entrepreneurs to help initiatives battling COVID-19. It additionally bought Rs.25 lakhs from Omidyar Community India and one other Rs.25 lakhs from  Wadhwani Basis. The cash got here useful to arrange telecom and server infrastructure to achieve varied corners of India.

Dr. Krishna Prasad Kudlu, Secretary of the Karnataka Ophthalmic Society, stated: “Typically there comes a time whenever you really feel that you’re blinded and might not see the trail forward. The present pandemic is one such occasion that makes the long run seemed blurred. Venture StepOne confirmed us the imaginative and prescient forward to battle the virus.”

A Nationwide Well being Digital Core

What India now desperately wants is a Nationwide Well being Digital Core that can arrange a sturdy technological platform to take care of well being emergencies like the present pandemic.  In truth, the pandemic needs to be seen as an excellent alternative for the central authorities to set it up simply because it arrange the Nationwide Catastrophe Administration Plan after the devastating Gujarat earthquake that killed over two thousand folks and razed areas like Kutch to the bottom. 

Ideally, the digital core would by an clever automation system churn out information for machine studying methods, neural networks, textual content to speech, decision-making and assemble algorithms for dealing with well being associated points all around the nation with the form of pace and effectivity that we can not think about at present with a damaged infrastructure that bought uncovered in the course of the COVID-19 disaster.

As soon as it’s arrange, the Nationwide Well being Digital Core will be capable of be certain that information is culled from inside and exterior sources to reach at suggestions, design applicable providers, and arrive at choices extra precisely as a result of deep studying course of. It should assist stakeholders to determine the form of providers to roll out, transact, talk and hint communication. We noticed how this was so essential in preventing this epidemic.

Because the pandemic evolves, Venture StepOne is working at leveraging their technique and infrastructure to satisfy new challenges. They’ve began engaged on coordinating with plasma banks by making calls to those that recovered and cajoling them to assist the sick. Additionally it is attempting to work out a system the place vital sufferers that suffer from different illnesses don’t get omitted because the stress on the well being infrastructure and well being staff enhance. “We need to see the day when nobody dies of COVID-19 in India,” says a Bengaluru-based volunteer as he multitasks at StepOne.

For him and hundreds of docs, it’s a step in direction of saving quite a few lives. 

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