We have entered the fourth phase of the lockdown. With a peak in the number of cases in the last couple of days, the circumstances still remain grim.Among those in the frontline battling the pandemic are our healthcare workers, our law keeping officials and our administrators.
Due to tremendous pressure on our healthcare systems, they are trying to adapt to the demands. The pandemic has challenged the traditional working of the healthcare domain and urged it to embrace alternatives. It has thrown bare the limitations of the healthcare infrastructure even in countries with world class medical facilities. Hence, we look to innovations that can ease the load on our healthcare systems.
In March this year, our country’s domestic production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and N-95 masks stood at zero. Today nearly two lakh kits are being produced making the industry self-reliant.
Telemedicine, which has largely been ignored as an industry so far, becomes important in a situation like this. Telemedicine is an all-encompassing term for providing remote virtual healthcare with the healthcare provider and the beneficiary physically in different locations. It can limit people displacement to hospitals allowing hospital capacity to be used for critical cases while curbing disease spread. Both the CDC and the WHO have advocated for telemedicine as a viable option in a corona world. we are at a time when the need for innovation and entrepreneurship in telemedicine is at a maximum.
On March 17, a week before the country went into the lockdown, a bunch of entrepreneurs and ex-executives from Flipkart, Urban Company and Bounce formed a group called Start-ups Versus COVID and working on a project called STEPONE.
Their idea was first proposed to the Karnataka government where the administration routed a portion of the helpline calls to STEPONE that began operating its Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Soon all calls were routed to STEPONE. They allow caller to punch in their symptoms, and based on whether or not multiple symptoms were being reported by callers, th system would signal whether or not a patient required having a doctor call them back. At the heart of STEPONE’s IVR are cloud telephony start-ups like Kaleyra, Exotel and Ozonetel. Competing start-ups have come together and collaborated for this initiative.
The current circumstances, government patronage and the rise of start-ups will provide the much-needed impetus for India to embrace alternate approaches to healthcare. Because sometimes it takes a crisis like this to force us to adapt and adopt changes.